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Riding Lessons for Artists (Horse picture © Judy Wood)
Judy Wood : Riding Lessons for Artists – Part 4: Basics are Basic

Riding Lessons for Artists

Part 4: The Basics are Basic

By Judy Wood

One of the irritating facts of life in many endeavors, and riding and art creation are right in there on this one, is that "the basics" are basic. As I have mentioned before, none of us came into this world knowing how to do these things. They need to be learned.

Some of us have a greater aptitude than others, but we all have to learn from the ground up no matter what our area of interest may be. The "lucky" ones are those who do have that "natural" ability that makes learning and application of the learning less difficult than it is for many of the rest of us. Note I didn't say "easier", just less difficult. Even if you have a "gift", you still have to work hard to realize your potential. In fact, being a "star" in either art or in the saddle can have its drawbacks, since the level of expectation is often much greater for the "gifted" student, hence the pressure to "succeed" and "realize your potential" is more onerous than for we less stellar performers who are slogging away in the trenches. We have the advantage of being able to toil away at our craft in relative anonymity as we work at improving ourselves and our performance, which is on the whole not such a bad thing. Then we can spring our hard-won accomplishments on an unsuspecting public who will be amazed at what we have become while they were tracking the high-profile performer, who by now has often burnt out and quit.

I can think of a number of examples of very talented individuals who were in art classes with me decades ago, all of whom have fallen by the art wayside over the years. Of the group I went to art school with that I am still aware of, I'm one of the few who continues to pursue a life that involves expression in the visual arts. Many of the others had more innate ability than I did (certainly in the realm of painting, at any rate) but for whatever reason, they did not have the level of commitment or long-term interest to keep them in the game. They ended up as the "shooting stars" of their day, blazing briefly then flaring out, while we more pedestrian performers dug in for the long haul, kept on keeping on, and have generated solidly successful (by our owns terms, at any rate) art careers.

Similarly with riding. I will never be more than a reasonably capable amateur rider, and it's taken me a lot of years even to get to this stage, but I can recall many faces that have come and gone in the time that I have been working on my skills. Some of them were successful in the show ring for a few seasons, then just vanished from the stables and from the horse community. They had an interest and they had some aptitude, but the day-in-day-out devotion and willingness to work hard for positive results just wasn't in them. I have observed others at "my" barn who have no natural ability at all, very little confidence and a good dose of sheer fear to conquer (been there, done that myself, and still working on it some days) every time they get on a horse, but by gosh they are there week in and week out working hard to get to the point that the "natural" riders started out at. Doesn't seem fair, but that's how it is, and I think the depth of experience and satisfaction to be achieved by having to strive for results can be much greater for these individuals than it might be for those to whom success comes too easily.

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