The United States Dressage Federation has awarded my CFD eNews article “Kindness Matters” Best General Interest Article for a GMO 75 – 174 members 2017
We have all been there, sitting in the stands, waiting for our ride time, and watching as the rider in the arena struggles to make accurate circles and is (again) sitting behind the movement of the trot. You hear remarks drifting back to you on the breeze from the trio of riders a few rows in front of you. One voice says “You would think she would have learned to sit the trot by now” followed by “Maybe if she worked out more or lost weight she would sit the trot better” and the other remarks “She is going to ruin that horse’s movement”. You start thinking to yourself, “Well, it’s only the truth” but then you realize you are thinking just like them. How easy it is to criticize! How much more difficult it is to speak about the virtue among the faults. You realize they probably will be judging you just as harshly in a couple of hours and the thought makes you uneasy. Good sportsmanship happens because we see the benefits of good sportsmanship. We see that when the older rider turns to the young, struggling rider and says, “You can do it, try it again. I will watch you” then the younger rider stops thinking that this is too hard and gives it one more try. We watch when one adult amateur rider says to the other AA “I saw how hard you were trying. I had trouble sitting the trot for a long time. I think you are getting better” then the struggling AA realizes that this rider that she admires has had the same difficulty that they overcame. “Maybe I can do this too” she thinks and then tries again. Struggling riders compare themselves to more experienced riders (who make the difficult look easy), they become discouraged, and then give up. “I’ll never be good enough,” they think. They never reach their potential because they quit too soon. All it takes is one person to encourage them to try one more time to prevent this early demise of a budding rider.
An unfeeling remark, casually given, sets an unhealthy tone for our sport. Accepting this casual cruelty as normal will poison the well of novice riders that our sport depends upon. All of us were struggling novices once. Do you remember the first person to show you kindness and encourage you to continue? Speak kind thoughts or be silent. It shows more intelligence and skill to remark on a virtue that inspires than to toss off a cruel observation of a fault that results in discouragement. Please take the time to remember how it feels to struggle and how vulnerable you were when you were new to the sport. When others hear you inspire a novice rider they too will remember that feeling when THEY first discovered the thrill of riding and that incomparable joy of just being with the horse. After all, that is what drew us to this sport in the beginning, right?
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