Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I’m sure the riders here tonight would agree that the riding success they have earned this year stems from their devotion to both their horses and to the art of dressage. It is the consistency of daily schooling of our horses that builds the muscle memory necessary to perform the balanced, fluid and beautiful movements of dressage. It also takes consistency for riders to progress from the “kickers and steerers” stage of the beginner to become the elegant upper level rider who performs with imperceptible aids. Choosing to devote a piece of your day, every day, to ride your horse means putting aside other commitments and focusing your energies to improve your communication with your horse. It means riding when it’s too cold, or too hot, or too windy (my personal favorite!), or too wet, or when you’d rather curl up with your cat and a good book. It means getting out of bed before the sun gets up to feed and muck stalls, even when you don’t want to, but you do it anyway.
Excellence is not a skill; it is an attitude that must be cultivated daily. As riders, we need to get into the habit of doing the hard things that are required for us to make steady progress. Let me give you an example: transitions. Transitions are the hardest moments for us to ride well and are usually the last things for us to master. They require great balance, and preparation, clear
communication, and preparation, superb body control and more preparation to perform well. But how often do we go out, just struggle through the up and down transitions and spend our time schooling 20-meter circles? We should be paying attention to riding those transitions with precision, subtlety and grace – but we’ll all agree, it’s easier to just canter 20-meter circles.
Schooling those awkward transitions to make them stronger and smoother requires discipline and discipline is a good habit to cultivate!
The path to find excellence is paved with good work ethic, patience, and perseverance. Confucius said, “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential …. these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” Good words to ponder and remember as we get ready for tonight’s Year End Awards. So, with that, I would like to say,
congratulations to everyone who cultivated the habit of excellence this year and qualified for an IEO Year End Award! -
Susan Moody, IEO President