A simple strategy for overcoming “rider’s block”

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Overcoming the writer’s (rider’s) block

As riders, I think we all experience some form of “rider’s block” in our day-to-day or competitive riding. It may be getting stuck with a particular aspect of training, or not being able to explain a concept to our horses. I had a discussion at university with a friend a few days ago about different writing processes. We talked about careful outlines, hasty drafts written and re-written, and thesis statements perfected before writing the body of the essay.

Then another strategy came up. He said someone had once told him to write the entire essay, copy and paste the conclusion at the top of a new document as an introduction, and write the entire essay a second time. He said it worked every time.

I began to think later that composers often employ this same strategy in their own work, but they make the process audible to the listener. Taking sonata form, for instance—exposition, development, recapitulation—where the composer (analogous here to the writer) first explains her idea, then develops and complicates her idea, and finally provides a recap of the initial but now more complex idea. When she first explains, she is writing the first draft. When she develops, she is writing the second draft. When she is providing a recap, she is concluding her second draft with a newer, deeper understanding of her initial idea.

Riding horses, which is to me in so many ways analogous to literature and music, can be approached this same way. When we approach a problem—a new dressage movement, a new type of fence on cross country, etc.—with trepidation, we hinder our success.

One of the key virtues of the drafting process described above is the elimination of fear in the first draft. Because you know your first draft will not be your final draft, you are not scared to get your ideas down. This fact reduces or eliminates writer’s block, that fear which paralyzes writers staring at blank screens every day.

In the same way, knowing your first draft—your first attempt at this new problem—will not be perfect, you’ll be far less afraid to give it a go. Knowing the half-pass won’t be perfect when you first try it will release the tension from your body. I think so many riders experience “rider’s block,” this fear that they won’t produce a good result that ends up preventing them from trying new and more difficult things. But if they remember that their first attempt at something is just their first draft—that the development and recapitulation will follow, and will solidify their skills—they will be more inclined to try it. This approach should in no way diminish the role that trainers play in educating riders and horses; it is essential that every rider get the education she needs to succeed safely.

Thinking about this approach to deciphering problems in writing may in fact also relieve your and “rider’s block”.

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