Talent and Method

By Julie Ulrich

     To be at the top of any sport one needs to be very talented. Talent, like feeling, cannot be taught. One is born with talent and one develops feeling over time as a result of a sensitive nature. In the earlier days of our sport, a rider with great talent could rise to the top, even with very little formal education. The equestrian sport, in every discipline, has evolved to the point where the formal education, or method -in -training, has taken on an almost equal importance to talent as a characteristic of a top rider. In the show jumping discipline this evolution has been produced by the sophistication of the course designers, and the shortened time allowed to complete the course. The competition at the high level has become highly technical, and a solid education and method have become a prerequisite for both rider and horse.

     There are many methods of training horses, each of which has its own characteristics and form. In order to learn a method, one must be willing to spend at least a year in complete immersion in that method. Even though it is an advantage to know several methods, it is impossible to learn more than one at a time. When learning languages, one can study Spanish and French and English during the same year. This is not recommended in learning an art, as in learning to train horses. Total immersion is by far the fastest road to competence. The acceptance of this concept will produce more riders willing to take the time to get an education.

     A horse trained and ridden by a talented and inventive rider can be impossible, or at least difficult, to ride by the succeeding rider. A horse trained by a talented and METHODICAL rider can easily be ridden at the same level by other riders who are qualified to do so. Witness Beezie Maddens, CORTES C, ridden by Beezie and all three other finalists at the WEG in Caen, France. Beezie was once a protege of Katie Prudent, who is adamant that one year of total immersion is the way to learn a method. Beezie is an example of a rider who uses a method, as well as talent, to train a horse. The true test of the Methodical Trainer is the performance of his horse with the next rider. Another test is the number of horses with which that trainer, or rider, arrives at the highlevel.

     It is a matter of pride to any trainer that his horses can be ridden by the succeeding riders.

     To learn a method takes a year of total immersion. Clinics, the occasional lesson, videos, cannot take the place of all day and constant exposure to a method. Time invested will always produce result. Methods which are classic, THE CAPRILLI METHOD, WEYROTHER METHOD, DE NEMETHY METHOD, FRENCH METHODS, AMERICAN METHOD, are all systematic, progressive and rich in detail and tradition. Learning to ride, and later to train and to coach, is the same as learning to become a doctor in that one must GO TO SCHOOL. No one wants a talented surgeon that never went to med school.

     Those students that suffer the ONE YEAR IMMERSION TEST, will probably repeat it by learning a second method having found the enormous benefit of the first effort. Those students are the future of our sport and become the trainers of the future. The many very talented riders who choose to ride by instinct and feeling alone may enjoy huge individual accomplishments, but contribute less to the Equestrian World in the large picture. As our sport evolves, the combination of talent WITH method becomes imperative to a rider as a way to succeed in a regular fashion with many horses on many continents.

     In forming young horses in a methodical way, one can produce confident, sound and technically correct horses for a long future in the sport. Every horse is different. The talent and feeling of a rider is what allows him to use the same method on many horses, adjusted in terms of the personality and physical state of each horse.

     Method used with no feeling can rapidly become DRILLING or repetitive and thereby spirit breaking. Reiner Klimke often said that the challenge of training a Grand Prix dressage horse was not to teach the movements, but to do so without destroying the character of a young horse. And so, the instinct and finesse of the rider are what makes the method successful.

     In today’s world, competition becoming more and more sophisticated and at higher levels every year, to be at the top, a rider must have great talent and a solid education in at least one method. Talent alone is not enough, and the time invested in learning is always well paid over the years that follow.

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