Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Kottas Experience: Day 3, Just Too Tired

I don't remember much about my ride on Day 3. It was a Monday, so there weren't many auditors. I wisely decided to leave Spider at home and go back to get him for our ride time. I did get to audit more, which was very nice. But I was so, so tired.

The standout from my third ride is that Arthur explained to me how to ride a centerline. Somehow, in 20 years of riding dressage and many trainers, I have never managed to learn that. I always over shoot the centerline and then have to correct and then it's a mess. Arthur finally put it into words I could understand: "Ride it like a 10m circle". Oh.... Duh. It seems really obvious in retrospect, but it honestly never occurred to me before.

My lessons with Arthur Kottas were not world changing experiences of a lifetime where flights of dressage angels sung to me of enlightenment and Spider and I floated away on perfectly classical unicorn farts, but they were very good confirmations of things I already knew (other than how to hit the centerline). What I learned was more about myself, and that I am on the right track and I'm receiving good training. Almost everything Arthur said was something I have already heard from my own trainer, just with a different accent. That's a very good thing.

Probably the most important thing, and the most world-changing thing, Arthur said to me wasn't during any of my rides. It was while I was driving him to the airport after the clinic. We were chit-chatting, as one does on an hour-long car ride. I was pointing out the various fascinating South Jersey sights: "That's the landfill where they buried the dead whale that washed up on the Shore a couple years ago. That's a peach orchard. That's a soybean field. There's the Sewage Treatment Plant.", but the subject came back to horses because apparently Arthur doesn't find dead whales and sewage treatment as fascinating as I do. So, we were talking about his approach to clinics when he suddenly said, "Your horse is very difficult."  *record scratch*

Not gonna lie, I damn near threw his ass out of the car into a soybean field. Nobody, I mean nobody, not even Arthur Kottas, gets to say anything bad about my favorite horse. But I controlled myself, artfully glossed over that part of the conversation, and delivered him safely to the airport.

I then related that story to a few people, who all agreed with him. My trainer even said, "You should take that as a compliment.", and then followed it up with, "If he were easy, you'd be doing Grand Prix by now."  I realized that I can't abandon all my friends in a soybean field, because someone might miss them and then get suspicious, so I eventually just started to accept that maybe Spider is a just a smidge difficult and maybe I'm not that bad of a rider.

I'm not sure if I'll ride with Arthur again. I will definitely host another clinic with him, it was a wonderful experience, but riding and hosting is just too much for me. If I ride again, it will be only for one or two days. Really though, I learned the most by sitting and listening to him teach. As much as I want to people to ride in clinics, because I need riders to fill my clinics, I really think that auditing is the best bang for your money. Being able to sit there and listen to him teach riders and horses of all ages and levels is a truly sublime experience. If you do ride, bring along someone to video or take notes for you, because you probably won't remember a thing!


  1. Great quote in that pic! Difficult horses do a have lots to teach us. Even if Spider is a bit difficult you will be a better rider to for it... :) (don't leave me in a soybean field)

    I am a way bigger fan of auditing. Riding in front of people makes me very nervous so I don't absorb very much!

  2. I had a difficult horse once and my trainer told me he would teach me to ride really well. I didn't really believe her until I swapped horses with someone (who wanted to try riding my boy) in a lesson. The other person struggled BIG time, couldn't make him do anything and was extremely frustrated. Me, on the other hand, felt like I was on auto pilot - her horse did everything, all by himself. ...and it made me feel much better as a rider. Take difficult as the complement to your riding that it is. It doesn't mean Spider is bad, he's just challenging you ride at the top of your game.

  3. Haha. Those soybean fields would get awfully crowded.

  4. Glad you rode in the clinic instead of me - I would have been toast - a bunch of times. Nice to read about it, though!

    I've had several difficult horses, and they've made a huge difference to my riding - and my horsemanship.

  5. sorry i'm a little stuck on visualizing you and Spider floating away on perfectly classical unicorn farts.... lol!!

    seriously tho, what awesome takeaways. and perhaps by accepting that your horse *might* be a smidge on the tougher side, you're able to relieve yourself of some pressure when things don't go quite right. and i agree that auditing seems to be the way to go for a lot of BNT clinics, tho i hope to eventually ride in a few too

  6. I would want to know why he saw my horse that way. It does show what an awesome rider you are.

  7. The difficult horses challenge us as riders and people. Riders with "easy" uncomplicated horses never really learn the lessons the rest of us (with difficult horses) learn. You have done a fantastic job with Spider and Arthur was complimenting you by recognizing your skill. Let the soybeans flourish without the extra fertilizer.


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