My freshman year of college, I was given a guitar, and I vowed to learn to play it because 1) folks who play the guitar are super cool, 2) I now owned a guitar, and 3) the boy who said he’d teach me was really cute.
As it turns out, I’m not very good at the guitar, and I gave up pretty fast. But it wasn’t my lack of talent that kept me from being a super cool guitar player. It was that I didn’t want to learn how to play the guitar; I wanted to know how to play the guitar. The learning part really stinks.
I find myself facing the same feelings as I come back from my first show of the year. Midge, who is a wonderful and brilliant fellow, warms up beautifully; as we go down centerline, little things start adding up until I feel like I can’t ride, and I’m back in my dorm room, my fingers cramping as I try to remember where to put them to achieve the C chord, even though I’ve made the C chord eight gajillion times.
I don’t want to go through the learning part, the part where you futz around, making dumbass mistakes, then fixing them only to have something else go, and then try to fix that while the first mistake you made comes roaring back. I want each movement to feel easy, not like a mechanical process, where I’m reading myself a checklist in every corner – off my hand, legs forward, prepare, right bend, left thigh, neck down, eyes up, GO, repeat.
And that’s just too damn bad, because there’s only one way to the other side of Being Good, and that’s by Not Being Good for a while.
Let’s be clear – I have vastly more talent for riding than guitar playing (thank GOD). And it’s not like it’s a disaster out there. Midge earned 66 percent on Saturday, and almost 65 percent today. I got all my changes (including a bonus change into both halts on the centerline – seriously?!). I rode one exceptionally good canter half-pass zig zag, and one that was almost great. My left canter pirouettes were mighty good. My extended walk was great today; my collected walk was great yesterday. BOTH DAYS I could do extended trot, passage, and turn left without the wheels falling off the bus. At no point was there bad behavior, catastrophic errors or doing anything in the passage sections other than passaging. There was a LOT to like.
There’s just also a lot of stuff to tighten up, to not bungle, and to figure out how to move on from and make the most of it when I do bungle it. And the only way to get there is to keep going down the centerline because I’m a genius at home.
The two best things about Florida: I’m down the street from my trainer, and there’s at least one show every weekend all season long. I came home on Saturday night and entered Midge in a show every two weeks, and I haven’t ruled out doing some in the middle of it all. (Fender’s also entered in his first show since he was 4; whee!)
It’s going to be expensive as hell, and probably very frustrating, but this is my promise: By the end of this show season, I will have the tools in my toolbox to ride a Good Solid Mistake-Free Grand Prix Test Every Time. This is my promise. This is my mission. And when the promise and the mission become really annoying, I will remember that everyone who’s any good at anything was, at one point, not.
Even the guitar players.