When I recently cleaned out my filing cabinet, I found a few tests I used years ago when applying for my United States Dressage Federation’s
Bronze Medal Rider Award. To earn the award, I had to achieve a score of at least 60% at a USDF recognized show, on two different rides, judged by two
different judges, at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd levels.
Though I rarely attained the score I wanted, I enjoyed training
my horse for dressage events, and learned a lot from those competitions. If I made a mistake during a test, I learned to keep my cool and ride each step, because the whole test was judged, not just that one error. I learned to accept criticism. The dressage judge not only pointed out my mistakes, but also gave positive comments for improvement. This gave me a goal and inspired me to work on my riding skills.
Improvement in dressage only comes through wet saddle blankets, the rider’s dedication to practice, and a don’t give-up-even-though-I’m-sweaty attitude, much like a writer needs to finish a writing project, or deal with the disappointments and difficulties encountered in getting published.
Years ago, I took an English class that edited a book to be
published by Hancock College. The students in the class also critiqued each other’s stories. The rules were to say something positive and give constructive comments. The experience of having my horse’s every stride scrutinized by a stern judge gave me an appreciation for the benefit of accepting someone else’s
opinion. Even so, scrutiny is never easy; for some reason, the pleasure of a multitude of positive remarks doesn’t seem to take the sting out of even a tiny negative one. It was the first time a group critiqued my writing. I was nervous. My voice quivered when I read my story to them. But the many times I had halted at X in the center of the arena at the end of a dressage test taught me you-can-do-it-if-you-stick-to-it.
Now, even after having a few books published, I still belong to
a critique group. By sharing my writing, I test my story for weak spots, and get ideas and remedies for my story’s glitches. Best of all, I get to hang out with a bunch of interesting people who love to write.
dependable friend who has taken me on many trails and roundups. He is now thirty-one-years old, and along with Mick, my younger horse, enjoys napping in the shade of the oaks on our back acre.