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Riding Lessons for Artists (Horse picture © Judy Wood)
Judy Wood : Riding Lessons for Artists – Part 3: It's Never Too Late

Riding Lessons for Artists

Part 3: It's (Almost) Never Too Late

By Judy Wood

Now that I've provided a bit of background about how my path in life has led me to the juxtaposition of art and riding, I'll move on to some of the "life, art and riding lessons" I have collected along the way.

One of the first that strikes me is the truth of the old adage "it's never too late." I think perhaps this does need a bit of amending as it applies to riding, since there are practical and physical-welfare concerns that would apply if an 80-year-old person with no previous experience suddenly wanted to start riding (although I would like to point out several 80-year-olds in my circle of friends who continue to ride into their 80s) but that aside, age and lack of previous experience are not necessarily a deterrent to learning to ride or to becoming a practicing artist.

OK, here we come to a bit of an aside. Part of my "artist's mind" involves a lot of lateral thinking, where I start out going one way, then get diverted by other possibilities as I progress. Kind of like when your horse takes over and you don't end up where you were heading. Sometimes this creates an enhanced and enriched end product, sometimes not, but it's part of my art process, and is apparently part of my writing process as well. Bear with me please.

As I was about to write the word "practice", I wondered whether it should have the second "c" or an "s". I've seen it written both ways but thought I should check for correctness. Turns out it can be used either way, depending on what school of usage you are following. Being Canadian, I tend to have pretty well equal exposure to both British and American usage, so for me it's a bit of a toss-up. Since I'm writing this for a US site, I will bow to the American way in this instance. This spell check led me to read the definitions while I was at it, and interestingly, I felt that all five definitions listed below (from Wiktionary) could apply equally well to riding and to art.

Some might query number three in this list, but for those of us who take our art and our horses very seriously, this one isn't that far off the mark either. No disrespect whatsoever to any established religions intended.

Noun
practice (plural practices)

  1. Repetition of an activity to improve skill. He will need lots of practice with those lines before he performs them.

  2. The ongoing pursuit of a craft or profession, particularly in medicine or the fine arts. She ran a thriving medical practice.

  3. The observance of religious duties which a Church requires of its members.

  4. A customary action, habit, or behavior; a manner or routine. It is the usual practice of employees there to wear neckties only when meeting with customers. It is good practice to check each door and window before leaving.

  5. Actual operation or experiment, in contrast to theory. That may work in theory, but will it work in practice?

Both the rider and the artist (whether novice or of a more advanced level of training) need to work at their craft in order to gain control and mastery i.e. repetition to acquire skill (# 1).

We need to continue that repetition and learning in an on-going way (# 2). Just having the knowledge isn't enough. It must be developed and worked on over time.

Our observance isn't really a "religious" one, but we do need to have faith in the process and be devoted to trying to attain our goals (# 3).

(# 4) With the repetition and application of the previous definitions, we will develop (ideally) good habits and routines, that will allow us over time to attain the best level of performance that we can.

And (# 5), we actually have to do it, which is to say we need to put ourselves out there and get on that horse, or put paint on that canvas, and not just think or dream about it.

Back to the originally scheduled programming now. Neither riding nor art are of necessity age dependent. It helps in some instances if one "grows up in the saddle" or with pencil and paper in hand, but these are not prerequisites to personal and/or professional success in later life. As long as one is willing to approach learning with an open mind and a willing attitude, some level of competence and mastery can certainly be achieved, particularly if the learner applies all the definitions of "practice" as noted above.

Neither riding nor art skill (as opposed to ability) is something one is born with. As with everything else in life, they are learned skills that can be acquired at any age. We all are familiar with the Grandma Moses story and while the mid-life beginner rider can't realistically hope for a high-end show career in the riding ring, they can certainly learn the skills and practices that will make them into a capable rider and that will give them a deep satisfaction with their achievements.

I didn't start riding lessons until I was in my mid-thirties. It has been over two decades of hard slogging to learn the basics and to become relatively capable in managing myself and my horse, but it has changed my life in more ways than I can count, including giving my art career a focus and a new passion.

If there is something in your life that you have always wanted to do, but been prevented from trying by life circumstances, your own mindset, or the negative attitudes of others, give yourself permission to make it happen if you possibly can, whether it is art, riding, or whatever your desire is. Take the first step (which really is the hardest) and follow along from there. At whatever age. •

Next: The Basics are Basic »

© 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 »

3/30/09