As I've wandered through the different riding disciplines, from saddleseat "A" Morgans to amateur hunters to backyard eventing to dressage, I think I have always been searching for that one thing that would make me as good a rider as the naturals I saw around me. I have always been a capable amateur, able to be an effective working student bridging the gap between amateur and professional, but I have always lacked that little bit extra that makes a truly gifted rider. And I knew it.
Looking back, I tried to remedy this with many lessons and the working student gigs, with some definite improvements. I always bumping up against the fact though, that most really good trainers and riders have a really hard time explaining exactly what it is that they do that is the difference that makes the difference. I felt like I was much improved but that the "gifted" riders definitely had something that they couldn't teach. Very frustrating.
Things might have ended there, with my sticking to the amateur hunters if not for some interesting dressage lessons on a retired PSG horse with a semi-retired dressage trainer. JT had ridden with Jimmy Williams, jumped at GP level extensively, evented at the upper levels including stints with Jack LeGoff, and competed in dressage. She was an endless resource of stories and wisdom and totally opened my eyes to how much a rider can learn through resources like Sally Swift's Centered Riding, Sylvia Locke's The Classical Seat, and Mary Wanless's various books. This opened up a whole new way of learning that I played with as I moved across the country, started a family, and basically got down to real life with horses on the side.
As I puttered in my fields over the years, using ideas and exercises from books and eventually the Internet, many things that I had struggled with became easier. The biomechanics of the gifted rider became more clear and I have had some perfect riding moments that I one time I would have thought would be impossible. Still, some things have remained elusive. Like true collection.
I think I have been looking for the magic bullet. One system that will get me there, you know, where balanced and effective riding leads to progression through the dressage levels. Instead, I have come to the conclusion that it isn't going to be one system or book that gets me "there". Certain key books and concepts have lead to massive riding insights but as each book has led to more and more insights it wasn't until I took concepts from several different sources and put them together this Summer that I have FINALLY found success this Fall. It took years of layering concepts of biomechanics of rider and horse to get the keys to the kingdom.
Coming next, the key books and concepts I have found most helpful and why.