Today my horse crushed our dressage school. If I could have gotten off and chest bumped him, I would have. My focus was shortening the trot and canter up to as collected as Bobby can get right now while maintaining massive power in the hind end before sending him forward to a huge, uphill medium gait and then coming right back again.
He never once got frazzled. He didn't quit on me. He was sharp off the aids and light in the bridle. His back was up, his butt was down, and he was so round it felt like he'd grown several inches underneath me. When we were done, my core was aching and Bobby had a thin sheen of sweat up and down his neck. We'd worked our asses off in unison, and we were both happy to end with a good, long stretch.
I'd take that work into a Second Level test any day of the week, and I wouldn't be ashamed to turn down the center line for a Third Level test with that horse in the slightest. So when a comment gets thrown out that, "Horsey McBorsey was so good for Person McPersy the other day. She was seriously doing Second Level stuff so easy!" it bothers me.
Horsey McBorsey is a nice horse, and she hacks around on the bit politely in all three gaits. She knows SI and can leg yield. She's got a little bit of a lengthening on her. She's not a Second Level horse.
I've touched on this before here, about when you can call your horse confirmed in his discipline. For me, dressage specific rider that I've become, I think you have to make it through an entire test at your level before you can start throwing out labels. Most horses can--and should--be able to do basic lateral work and be able to adjust their stride within a gait. Having a horse that does SI and HI does not make them a Second horse. You should have to factor in degree of collection and being able to string all those movements together one right after the other for five minutes at a time.
Over the winter, there was a rider that talked nonstop about how she was going to event a horse. She'd done a couple of local Intro level events several years in the past and had no other eventing experience, she doesn't have a truck or trailer or any passing knowledge of the rule book, but she was going to take this horse out and event him all summer long. That bothered me, too.
When people offhandedly throw these goals or general phrases out like they're the easiest things in the world to achieve, I feel like it cheapens the accomplishments for those of us that work so hard at them, and for those of us that have actually attained those things.
There are people that act as if they're going to get to the top of their sport despite not being a naturally gifted rider, or not having heaps of money, or not being paired with a suitable horse. I'm okay with that. I feel like all of those things are me. I think you can channel that to become a better rider and to work harder always, all the time.
But to the people that have this vision that they're better than they are, the people that brag about things they don't actually have a firm understanding of, you bother me. Don't try to lessen the success of those of us that have clawed our way to every minor win we've gotten by diminishing those things as if anyone could cross them off the list without any effort at all. We work hard to be better, and it takes hard work to be the best.