How to Embrace Incompetence

Not having much to update today, I thought I would share this article from Dressage Today. If you are, or have ever been, frustrated by a skill that seems out of reach, this is the article for you.


Full disclosure, it was written by my dressage trainer, Eliza Sydnor, and so it’s probably no surprise that the words speak to me. I think they also translate very well into any discipline, as it describes the psychological phenomenom of learning to ride a horse, and that you could probably use Hunter-Jumper, or Western Pleasure, or whatever, and the article would still hold true.

Photo by High Time Photography

Photo by High Time Photography

Eliza discusses the responsibilities of the trainer-student connection, and how communication is vital to the learning process. Her discussion of that most frustrating stage, conscious incompetence, where you know what to do but just can’t seem to do it, reminds me of so many lessons where I have struggled to make my body do as I knew it should. Renvers, I’m looking at you. But knowing that we are moving from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence, and that the cycle of learning is renewed with every new skill, is part of the process. Personally, I find this challenge of dressage part of the draw, and I imagine any rider who has learned along with their horse can relate.


As part of my continuing dressage education, I will be attending the Debbie McDonald and Janet Foy clinic this weekend. A couple local trainers, including Eliza, will be riding as demo riders, which should make an already interesting day that much better. Plan to see a clinic rehash next week!

11 thoughts on “How to Embrace Incompetence

  1. That was a wonderful article! The sports psychologist I work with teaches the same thing, and it really helps to get oneself out of the mental rut. And I’ve met both Debbie and Janet (though not ridden with them!) and they are LOVELY women. You are going to have a blast at that clinic! Can’t wait for the write-up!

  2. great article!! i feel like i pretty much live in ‘conscious incompetence’ lol. but i think the article does a good job pinpointing WHY dressage can be so difficult mentally: when i started taking lessons, that process of going back a few steps (temporary regression) was REALLY hard for me to swallow. and then even when i finally DO ‘get’ something, it’s only ever for brief moments, rather than ‘ok i know how to do this now so we will *always* do this now’…

    anyway thanks for sharing and hope you have sooooo much fun at the clinic! take lots of pictures πŸ™‚

  3. Excellent article and excellent post =) To me, identifying things you don’t know and then learning all about them is the fun of equestrian sport. Otherwise we’d just be bopping around the trail or arena.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s