To be at the top of dressage you have to have an amazing relationship with your horse, no question. Training a horse to Grand Prix not only takes talent and skill but also a great deal of knowledge of and respect for your equine partner. Some riders make their way to the top and are then given great horses to ride. Others are still finding their way: when a top horse enters their life, it teaches them and pretty much ignites their dressage career. So how do riders cope when a horse is taken from them?
One of our world's greatest rider's once said that dressage is all about repetition. That is not to say that you should go around and around hour upon hour. It means that we must do, reflect, correct, and repeat, until we feel we have perfected or at the very least slightly improved upon the time before.
Today I was reminded yet again just how much of our sport is mental. One of my horses is young and boisterous and I have heaps of fun on him. The other is shy and self conscious and, well, a worry wart! After my ride on the second today, I stared into his eyes, with tears in mine. Sounds pathetic or corny, I know, but I was just so ashamed of myself.
There are two things for certain in the world of dressage: one is that your friends and family will get very used to telling people that the reason you are not attending the party/dinner/anniversary/parade/gala/whatever is because you are with the horses. The other is that you can kiss goodbye any chance of having a happy savings account.
Excited just to get the invitation to a recent Richard White clinic in Portugal, I felt a little out of my league lining up with Miguel Ralao, Daniel Pinto and Goncalo Carvalho, three of Portugal's most experienced Grand Prix riders. Added to that was the fact it was my first time riding Batialo away from my own stable and I wondered whether his often over-enthusiastic personality might take over the 45 minute lesson.
Dressage is an art, no question, but what really defines the talent of a great rider is not their build, their training method, their financial status nor profile. What it all comes down to is their mentality.