thoughts from training

Here are some of my thoughts and reflections from the week I recently spent training at the Bartels Academy.

I have always thought and said this, and it was again reinforced this week: we should not rely on appearances.

First of all, this applies to the level of technical competency of riders – it is very difficult to evaluate somebody’s technical aptitude simply by watching them ride.

One striking example: an Australian rider who has been training at the Bartels Academy for three weeks. I saw her ride and she rode correctly, like everyone here. Her horse is normal, neither better than what we see here, nor worse. At first sight, an average rider with an average horse…  What a surprise awaited! While visiting the stables, Imke pointed out to us this rider’s horse and told us it was shortlisted for the Olympics. This rider is here training while waiting for final Olympic selection! So she is far from being an average rider, and we don’t see her doing the Big Tour movements because she is perfecting the basic work, not because she has a low level of technical competency.

 On top of that, we cannot trust our eyes at all. They constantly deceive us. They are far too connected to our brain for us to be able to trust what we see unquestioningly. The eyes see only through the filters of our conscious mind and help us to see what we want to see! If we show one person one side of a cube, and it is red, they will say “this is a red cube”, if the opposite side is green, they person on the other side will say “this is a green cube” – neither will be totally right, nor totally wrong…  A person who does not rely on appearances will say “the side that I see is red”.

It is the same thing when we see a horse working, or a rider training – it is crucial to ask ourselves questions, and even better, if possible, to ask the rider questions, to know if what we see is what’s actually happening. Everyone who has done a judge’s clinic has certainly been exposed to the optical effect by which we see a glaring error in a movement, and sanction this fault, being very sure of ourselves, but after being shown the video footage of the movement, we realise that it was in fact only a minor error, for example, the horse tripped for a fraction of a second while our mind showed us one or two strides of canter.

This week, I had the good fortune of training in Holland at the same time as a Swiss rider who dared to ask good questions, and we realised that we often had an incorrect interpretation of what we saw and that our understanding was very different after explanations… this was very rewarding.


Thanks to Clara Mehel for this translation