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Riding Lessons for Artists Part 4: Basics are Basic : Page 2 of 2

Riding Lessons for Artists

Part 4: The Basics are Basic

continued from page 1

Riding Lessons for Artists (Horse picture © Judy Wood)Back to the basics. The basics are the core skills that we all need to incorporate into our very being in order to advance to the higher levels of our art or our riding. In art the basics encompass such things as composition, proportion, understanding the elements of design, really learning to *see* what we are looking at, colour theory, and the technical skills of whatever medium we are working in. This knowledge underpins all our endeavors and gives us the structural foundation for the work we do. As in building a house, first you dig the foundations, pour the cement, and get a solid framework established. Then there are no worries about having spent a huge amount of time tweaking the decor and getting everything just right only to have our house collapse because the foundation wasn't correctly in place.

Similarly in the riding ring. The basics include such things as our seat, balance, use of our hands, applying our legs, knowing the correct aids and how and when to deliver them so that our horse will understand what we want, and will be able to work with us to deliver our requests. Because riding involves another sentient being (and a large one at that) with its own learning trajectory and history, the basics in riding are a little more critical than they are in art, if only for the fact that riding is statistically one of the most dangerous activities out there, while generally speaking most studio work isn't. So in a very real sense your life, and/or your limbs, can depend on having a good secure seat and a sound and applied working knowledge of the basics.

Something I have observed in both art workshops and in riding clinics is the desire on the part of some artists/riders for the "tricks." Some people are convinced that there are secret tricks or shortcuts that will leapfrog them over several levels of skill in a very short period of time. Sadly, these tricks don't exist, either in art or in riding. It's all a step-by-step incremental process, and indeed my experience has been that going backwards and repeating earlier lessons that were incompletely learned or incorrectly understood/applied, is more common than sudden leaps forward. The good news is that by going back and getting the basics right, we can then move forward faster and in a more direct fashion. At least until we hit another of those "basic knowledge incomplete or incorrect" walls again.

I've had one of these epiphanies myself just in the last month or so, when I finally "got" using my leg consistently with my horse. For more years than I care to enumerate I *thought* I was using my legs correctly, but in fact I was inconsistent with applying leg aids and indeed tended to take my leg away at the moments when it was most needed. Now that I have finally understood the incorrect aids that I was applying, and and am working to correct them by going back to basics (yet again!!) the quality of my riding and of my horse's performance has increased exponentially. Who knew?

This point would make a natural segue into my observations about instructors, teaching, and ongoing learning, but that will have to wait for another time. For now, I'll leave you to think about a quote I came across recently that has stuck with me — "Knowledge does not come all at once." We learn one bit. Then another. Then when we are ready, yet another. Then we have to apply them. Consistently. Sigh. •

Next: How Do We Learn and From Whom? »

© 2009 Judy Wood. All rights reserved.

Judy WoodJudy Wood is a Canadian art photographer whose images and writings are shaped by her prairie based lifestyle as an artist, photographer, writer and horse person. More »