Monday, December 7, 2009

Ritter Me This

The text below is from Dr. Ritter's yahoo list "ClassicalDressage"The question:what IS a good rider? One that looks good? There are plenty of good looking riders who are not effective.

One that is effective? Maybe they don't look so good though? What about riders who can take a ruined horse and make it better but is still only average.... is that a good rider? What about riders who can influence the horse with calm, assertiveness... are they good?

Guess the question is -- are they easy to spot? Can you go to a show or demo and say right away -- that's a good rider?

Dr. Ritter's response:That's a good question. I think the answer is somewhat personal. To some extent, it's a matter of your own quality standards and of what's important to you. To some extent, it's relative to the rider's age, experience, physical limitations, etc., because somebody can be riding very well, considering where s/he came from or how little instruction s/he has had, but in absolute terms, this person may not be a very advanced rider. Some riders are very good with certain types of horses or with solving certain types of problems, without necessarily being an Olympic calibre rider. On the other hand, somebody can be a very successful competitor at the upper levels, without being a good horseman and without being what I personally would consider a good rider.

I personally think that a good rider has to have a variety of skills. A good rider and good trainer are synonymous to me. Somebody who can taxi a made horse around a test without training the horse to that level may be a skilled technician, but s/he is no Rider.A good rider must have a good seat, i.e. effective, supple, balanced, strong when necessary, and pleasant to watch. Part of a good seat is good timing and coordination of the aids.A good rider has to have good intuition, good feel, equestrian tact, and an understanding of the horse's psychology. That's an absolutely indispensable skill.A good rider is a thinking rider. The rider has to have a certain academic understanding of the subject in order to be able to diagnose correctly, i.e s/he must be able to identify where a problem originates, and to choose the right course of action based on this diagnosis.A good rider is creative and can think of several solutions to every problem.A good rider can find individual solutions for each situation and is not limited by "what the books say", because every horse has his "own book" that the trainer has to write.A good rider should be able to train any breed and any personality type, although every rider has preferences, of course.A good rider has to be able to know how much is fair to expect of any given horse on any given day. S/he has to know when to demand a little more, when to be content with the effort the horse is making, when to change the subject or the tactic, when to reward, when to reprimand, when to ignore something the horse did, and when to quit.A good rider needs to know and respect the limitations of the horse in order not to demand anything the horse is unable to deliver.A good rider has to be able to choose a methodology that is time effective, so that it doesn't take 100 years to get to GP, but that also preserves the horse's physical and mental soundness. A good rider has to be able to make a little improvement in the horse every day, so that the horse feels and looks better at the end of the lesson than at the beginning, and so that there is a visible improvement from week to week, month to month, although there will always be little ups and downs from one day to the next.A good rider develops the horse's musculature and makes him safe, dependable and enjoyable to ride.A good rider is his/her own toughest critic and has self discipline.A good rider recognizes and fights the urge to give in to his/her ego. That's something that every rider is faced with. No exceptions.A good rider perseveres in spite of inevitable setbacks and disappointments.A good rider is always sensitive to the horse's needs.A good rider rides for the horse, not for the audience and does not use the horse as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement. In other words, a good rider does not exploit the horse's talent and generosity.A good rider puts the horse's well being above everything else.A good rider is always trying to learn and improve his/her own riding and understanding.This is a high standard, and there is probably nobody who can live up to it all the time, but these are the things that I look for in a good rider, and they are goals we should all strive for ourselves. Many riders may be good in some of these areas, but bad in others. The best riders combine many of these qualities in themselves, but nobody's perfect.Notice that I don't place that much emphasis on movements, because somebody may be able to ride all kinds of tricks without fulfilling many of the other points in my list, which I consider much more important. And you can find riders who may not be able to ride very advanced movements, but who score very high in many of the areas that really count.

Written by Dr. Ritter


kestrel said...

Wow, that's an impressive goal to strive for! I like the definitions he gives a lot! I think a good rider/trainer turns out a horse that understands and likes his job, and the job is suited to the horse's capabilities.

kellyl said...

Amen to all that!

GoLightly said...