Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

I started out to write a completely different blog post about “Operation Sit Up”, my mission this summer to use biomechanics to finally cure my ingrained habit of tipping forward.  As you can see from the above photo from a recent Pivo session this is going pretty well.  After much trial and error, tilting my pelvis so my back is flat and actually in neutral spine has been the key to sitting up.  Courtesy of a comment in a random dressage Facebook page.  Who knew?  I still have some moments of tipping, especially when riding Cruise or  thinking about other things, but I’m at about 85% which I can totally live with.

Anyway, while sorting out some stills from the Pivo video, I started really thinking about how perfect is the enemy of good, and how an intense focus on biomechanics can lead to obsessive critiquing of horse and rider biomechanics.  You know how it is.  You start picking through stills to find a representative shot for your blog but have to discard some for the wrong moment of footfall but many more for showing a variety of flaws in woman and beast.  Then you start to feel like you are just cherry picking photos and actually, mostly, you just can’t ride or train properly.  Then you look at the video again and see you are harmonious, softly connected, your horse’s tail is swinging, and you make a nice pair.  Which is view is correct?

I’m also probably thinking about this more after reading A Enter Spooking’s recent post about some basic horse biomechanics flaws HERE.  It was super informative and I’m sure I will refer back to it frequently BUT I also think it is an easy trap to fall into to only see flaws and not see progress or stages of training.  If, of ten photos 2 are biomechanically correct and 8 are incorrect, is this a failure?  Or is this partnership a work in progress since 2 weeks ago all 10 would have incorrect?  What if the horse is willingly trying but can’t quite get it?  Should he be deemed a failure with all the baggage that come with that even though he is giving it his all?   How about the rider with a big position flaw but who is a competent rider?  Is she a failure or a work in progress who mostly gets the job done and whose horses all like her because she is a sympathetic rider?

You get where I am going here.  The focus on perfection(in many aspects of our lives) can be damning. Especially with dressage riders, who tend to be type A personalities, microscopic attention to biomechanics can lead to forgetting the spirit in which the horse works for you.  Forgetting about partnership.  How hard he tries to please.  Whether an imperfect moment today is the building block for some really nice work in two weeks time.  Or whether a position flaw seen several times or the correction seen more often than before is more significant.

To my mind it’s the long arc that matters.  If the work and the position improve over time towards correctness that is what we are working for.  But the spirit in which we do it, being focused on partnership and thinking about things from the horse’s point of view matters more than being “perfect” all of the time.  I have some favorite  imperfect pictures of Jet showing where he was trying his little heart out for me, we were soft and flowing, and we actually scored pretty well.  I can see how far we’ve come today, but also don’t discount how far we came to get to that picture then.



  1. Thank you for writing this. I agree that we can get too much focused on perfection. For me, at his is a combination of my own tendencies and the coaching I’ve had in the past. You look so good and straight in the photo. I know how hard it is to not tip forward. Well done!

  2. Oh my goodness Yes! It can be tough to not self depreciate. We also have to remeber to be accepting of all of their trying and appreciate what they give us.

    And trying to keep ourselves upright, straight, heels down, relaxed and all the other things to work on while our bodies have issues of our own- it's really hard sometimes.

  3. I tend to hunch over/ lean forward too and I feel your pain. I once had a ride on my jumper mare Tess where everything came together because I was sitting up. It was so long ago but I find myself thinking back to that as a reminder. Lately my lower leg has gone rogue. No idea why. *eyeroll*

    1. Yeah, the problem with correcting one thing can be another thing popping up! I guess I'm trying to get to the head space of never being perfect but working to be good enough, if that makes sense?

    2. It totally makes sense since none of us are perfect. How boring would it be if we were?