Friday I Swan Dive

Gentle Reader,

At around five o’clock this Friday I will begin the written exam for my “L” Program testing. It will be the first of a three part exam to question my knowledge of dressage terminology, my handle on USEF and USDF rules as well as my ability to score, comment and place people with dressage classes up to second level test three.

If your eyes just glazed over worry not, you aren’t alone. The reason I bring up my testing is not to subject you to a long, slow death by boredom but to segue into a conversation (albeit largely one sided) on how jittery I am at the prospect of testing.

There is a supposition amongst dressage professionals that we are not allowed to show doubt, or fear, or ignorance. In a sport where so much is subjective and oftentimes unknowable we are supposed to act as stalwart bastions of knowledge. We are the ones that must show no weakness.

And in some ways I understand this. Most cater to a client base who have some level of fear themselves, as well as much to learn. They want to rely wholly on their trainer as an end all, be all. Not to mention there is competition from other trainers, ones who will purport to have the answers when you might admit you do not.

The open secret is that none of us have all of the answers all of the time. Only an idiot would feel no fear in a dangerous situation. And each horse teaches us something, which means there is a time of ignorance no matter how proficient the dressage trainer might be, when they first get into the saddle of a new ride. As years go by they will notice similarities in behavior, patterns of misbehavior and have innumerable tools to fix issues with time, but everyone will be confounded at some point.

But isn’t that inspiring? What would be the point of an incoming clinician if you knew everything? What would be the point of conventions, or furthering your education if there was nothing to be learned? What would be the point in continuing? It is the thrill of learning with my students as I discover a new way to describe a concept so they really understand. It is getting on a horse and having them show me a better, more subtle way or riding. These are the things that fuel my love of the sport.

Now before things get too precious. I am as nervous as hell for this weekend. Although it is well and good to say an ignorance paired with a desire to learn fuels progress, no one likes to fail. I can definitively say I am not a fan of the whole swan-diving-and-eating-shit-on-the-landing concept.

And on Friday I swan dive.

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