Guest Blog post # 103: "It’s a Pirate’s Life" by Bill Woods

There’s one truism in dressage – if you wait around long enough, you’re always going to find someone with the opposite opinion of what you’ve been led to believe. When you are young and/or starting out, the only thing to do is hitch your belief system to someone who is known to be credible and stick with them. There is nothing worse than ping-ponging back-and-forth from one person’s advice to another’s (and another’s and another’s).
Seemingly irreconcilable philosophical disagreements crop up even between godlike legends. Back in the early 70s I remember observing to Lockie Richards at ADI that Podhajsky said to weight your inner seat bone in shoulder–in while Seunig said to sit on the outside one. My question to him – Who was right?
Lockie dismissed my confusion by saying it wasn’t much something he thought about. He sat where the horse needed him to sit at any given moment to make the movement work best.
In DRESSAGE Unscrambled I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow: “We don’t have rules. We have guidelines!” Until your riding matures to where you can trust your own judgment, this notion is a bit unsettling. It’s normal to think “Yes, I know, I know. Just tell me what I’m supposed to do, and I’ll do it!” No such luck. Life is more complicated than that.
You will run into lots and lots of other examples. How about the walk? Some instructors will admonish, “Never work very long in the walk. It’s so easy to damage the rhythm!” Appearing to contradict this, other notables will say, “If you can’t perform a movement in a slow gait, how can you expect to do it in a faster one? Practice in the walk!”
There is no grand conclusion here other than your approach must be situational and depend on a variety of factors. Don’t be surprised. That’s normal. In fact there may be a “best way” but it may not be the same way every time.

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