Announcing a regular new feature on my blog: Saturdays with Suzanne! I have been training with Suzanne May and her late husband, Wolfgang May, since 1995. The in-person training has been very on and off in recent years, but she has always been my go-to gal for questions about dressage training and theory. Take a look at the biographies of Wolfgang and Suzanne here.
Saturdays with Suzanne will offer weekly writings from Suzanne on training problems and dressage theory. If you have a question, she'd be happy to answer it for you! Consider her the Anne Landers of dressage. Please leave any questions for Suzanne in comments. And now, on to her first article!
The desire to understand
One morning I was sort of listening to a movie or book critic on TV, and he made a statement that seemed to me to apply very much to our sport. That is, "...the urge to be 'with it' most often overpowers the desire to understand it.". How true that is!
When individuals are trying to learn, their focus should be on just that: learning. Instead, many tend to become advocates, prematurely, of a particular style or perhaps a well-known person. This is not to say that we should not admire accomplished individuals. However, don't blindly follow an example or a method to the exclusion of others unless you have the expertise to successfully dissect and examine it. To do so tends to stunt, if not stop altogether, the learning process. One then forms opinions based on incomplete or incorrect information and defends them with equally faulty reasoning, usually missing the point entirely. This becomes a vicious circle when you are forced to defend your position (even to yourself). Learning requires an open mind, not defensiveness.
It is not easy to be a good student. It takes perseverance and patience. To want to learn is necessary but not enough. One must take responsibility for one's own learning. There is no mystique. It is all very logical.
We all know we have an interest in dressage; however, it requires introspection and honesty to discern exactly which aspects actually draw us. This has nothing to do with whether or not we wish to compete or trail ride or apply our knowledge to another aspect or pursuit (i.e., education, breeding, etc.). All of these require a certain correctness.
But what if it is ego or the social aspect that is our true motivator? What if the horse is just an instrument or a prop? Is it acceptable to appear or act knowledgeable, or do we really want to be knowledgeable? Can we set aside all pretenses in order to achieve this goal? Are any excuses really acceptable, or are they just excuses? Do we give in to the urge to be "with it" and thereby doom ourselves, personally, to mediocrity, or do we have the courage of our convictions and the resistance to that which is flawed or fake?
Do we have a genuine and profound--or just a cursory--interest in the desire to understand dressage?