“Oh my god this feels amazing” I shrieked across the arena at a friend last week followed by “please say it doesn’t look terrible”!! No, I wasn’t doing anything incredible, there was no Piaffe or passage going on not even an accidental spook inspired one. I wasn’t doing anything remotely close to a dressage test movement. I’d simply, after trying to get it for almost half an hour managed to get a horse really long and low, stretching out taking the contact forward and working over the back which for at least six strides felt bloody amazing. Naturally I lost it about half a circle later and spent the rest of my time trying to find it again. See, that’s what happens when you love flatwork, the feeling of doing it even half right for half a circle is like crack cocaine and we need our fix. We are mad really.
Spending hours repeating the basics trying and often failing to get “that” feeling is bizarrely addictive. We don’t mind if everything feels like an epic fail at the start or if we are bordering on dehydration from sweating or if our leg muscles are about to cramp up and die once we at some stage get that elusive feeling of getting it right, of progress, of feeling like you are gliding along looking like you know what you are doing for twenty seconds. What exactly “that” is of course varies day by day and from horse to horse depending on what you are working on but it’s what keeps us going.
I’m utterly useless at every other sport. When I was a kid my parents were hoping horse riding was a phase so they tried to enrol me in anything and everything else to pique my interest – basketball (im a hobbit, never gonna happen), ballet (I’d spent so long trying to keep my heels down no way was I putting my toes down on purpose), GAA (short kids don’t run as fast), Irish Dancing (felt like my arms were in straight jacket) and swimming (I hate cold water). So based on my lack of ability to do much else in sport when I am on the ground, I don’t know if this addiction to getting a handful of seconds of getting it right exists in other sports. I can understand a golfer spending hours trying to get a putt or a hole in one but some days I think Jesus I must be the golfer spending an hour trying to hit the ball and then celebrating when it happens once.
Loving flatwork and dressage has stood me well in other aspects of life though, I’ve fairly low expectations of work to reward ratio. Dangle the prospect of dinner or glass of wine or kilo of chocolate in front of me and I’ll happily work until my arms fall off beforehand and still say thanks afterwards. I work hard in my job and am still glad not to get fired. I kind of expect several rounds of chaos and everything going wrong before getting something right so that doesn’t phase me anymore. Like I said, we’re all mad here.