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Guest Blog post # 104: "Everything in Context" by Bill Woods
So the WEG is over. If you watched it streaming or were there live, you saw some wonderful horses and great rides. There was much to emulate.
One word of caution: nothing exists in a vacuum. So if you were taken with how quietly everyone rode, don’t make that your immediate goal. Instead work to make your horse balanced and attentive enough that you can make him perform with a quiet seat and imperceptible aids. It’s a subtle distinction, but you have to remember what conditions must pre-exist to permit you to look like that.
If you have the good fortune to spend time on the lunge line, that’s a perfect occasion to think of nothing but how you sit. However, there are times when you are schooling a horse that you do yourself no favors by putting the form before the function.
Similarly if you watch all these international riders sitting to the trot and conclude that’s what you should be doing with your youngster, you’re taking what they are doing out of context and, again, running the risk of doing more harm than good. Whether you caught it or not, I was happy to see several riders in rising trot as they circled the arena before the bell. Helping their horses relax and flow forward was their highest priority and was perfectly appropriate before the scoring began.
The top horses moved in an almost unworldly way. Simply watching them on the centerline from their first halt until the turn at C, you saw an amount of shoulder freedom, expression, and engagement that was extraordinary, even compared to medal winners from as recently as 20 years ago. It would be correct to conclude in your own showing that the judges would like you to concentrate on more than the halt but to ride the entire centerline thinking of those qualities. But once more, everything in context!
Most likely your own horse does not move like Verdades or Bella Rose. What makes them beautiful is not just how animated they are but how supple, elastic, and uphill their training has helped them to become. If you try to build more energy and life into your own horse’s performance, don’t abandon the Training Scale. Before you pour more energy in, be sure you have created a “vessel” that can contain it in harmony.