“The Modern Study of Expertise,” Excerpted from “Dressage for No Country”

From “Dressage for No Country:” The Road to Mastery and The Modern Study of Expertise.

I have noticed a nagging weakness that shows up in a lot of riders. They have an aversion to studying theory. They often have small chips on their shoulders when it comes to learning from books. They might leave a window open, just a crack, for studying very specific things about their craft—for example, they read articles on saddle-fitting but often stop short of books on the anatomy of the horse’s back. They read about new and different techniques of riding in popular horse magazines but know nothing of the history that can give context to all the new and amazing claims of originality. They will buy into methods that clearly lack any evidence that they work, if the proponent is a charismatic salesman. What’s worse is that these riders often go on to teach these things to their own students, compounding the glut of bad information in the horse world. People often conjecture that these types of riders were attracted to horses and nature; they were never keen on school and education. They sought the company of horses because they never found a way to be with other people. This is nice pop psychology, but I think when you observe any individual seeking to master a skill or sport, you will find the person has the discipline to do almost anything to improve. The individual will consider obscure methods, but they had better lead to recognizable improvement.

If you want to supplant the idea of winning with the idea of mastery, the rider must take the personal responsibility to attempt to understand the science behind how someone becomes a master or an expert. As it stands, there is strong evidence that the person needs to follow a certain path.

-Paul Belasik