What is most valuable in working in dressage is kindness to each other and to the horse and that is what is most important. Great works of art are not produced overnight and in equitation it is a process and this we always need to keep in mind when we look at someone elses work.
This is especially true in looking at video and photographs because both freeze time. The camera can see neither the past or the future and neither can it capture the physiological or subjective aspect of the work. It is important to also appreciate the amount of work and time that are put into a horse in training of any horse or any rider.
The true value of the work with the horses or really any art can only be judged from the subjective side. The work can look correct but not be and look very poor and still be quite alright because it is a statement of a condition which is evolving. The greatest works of art generally are not pop outs events even when they seem to be. The life experience and not just the technical skills of the artist is what brings a master piece to the forefront. A piece of art can be pivotal in an artist career or life and really be judged as substandard and that is alright too.
You see it is not the end result which need to be judged but it is the effort which needs to be examined. It is always about process and it takes great bravery to attempt any art. To be an artist is to withstand all critics and especially one’s own self-criticism which is sometimes the worst, is an amazing thing to do.
As horse people, we need to learn to be kind in examining each other’s work. Criticism’s only value is when it is a tool carefully used to help deepen and improve the quality of the artistic merit and in dressage perhaps more than any other art, the kind and gentle way in which we work the horse and work with our own shortcomings is in the end more important the an external appearance of correctness.
If in every training session the horse improves and becomes more and more beautiful, nothing more need be said. No photograph or video can really show this, especially if the change is in how the aids feel. If you think my art or someone elses work is bad now, you should have seen it yesterday or if today does not please you see it tomorrow. Our job with the horse is to create a kind and gentle container in which we and the horse can interact so that we both can leave fear and doubt far behind and we can find the joy in the work. At such a level, would one really care what it looks like? That said, the funny thing is that it starts to look like dressage and the beauty just intensifies.
Looking at the appearance and especially when it a lifeless picture or even video is just ridiculous. Find and feel the goodness in the horse’s heart and yours and worry more about the joy than your tack, your boots or a botched movement. Learn kindness and forgiveness from the horse because the horse is certainly shows both of these qualities despite how poorly most horses are handled. Let your dressage focus on what is important and do not let the horse world distract you but above all…. learn and be kind.