Shillin' Out with Warwick Schiller
Greeting from Australia, or as they say here, G’day.
I’m back in Australia doing some clinics, and once again no matter what level a horse and rider are at, I find that going back to the basics is what solves any issue.
I first became aware of this phenomenon back in the 90’s. I had a 4-year-old stud that I had trained to do the reining, and although he could slide quite well, and the hind end worked quite well, the front end was stiff and his head stuck up in the air. I had done everything I knew of to fix the issue to no avail. I went to a clinic with Dell Hendricks and couldn’t wait for the stopping part. But first we had to work on the guiding, and the spinning etc. But finally, the last session on the last day we started to work the stop. But first he wanted me to work on my fencing, and I found myself revisiting some of the guiding techniques we had worked on the previous day. Once we used those guiding techniques to get him running straight, at slow, medium, and fast speeds, Dell said “Now run him down there and say whoa and see what happens”. I thought to myself this is the moment I came here for, forget all that guiding and circling and stuff, I want to fix the front end in the stop.
So I did. I ran down there and said whoa.
It was the best stop he’d ever done, by far. Not only did the hind end work great, he hung his head down like he was asleep and his front feet pedaled like he was in the Tour De France.
I was astounded. Dell looked at me and said “What’s wrong with that ?”
“Nothing”, I replied “but he’s never done a stop like that before.”
It was then I realized that I had taught the horse to stop perfectly well, and that I just hadn’t taught him to run straight. At the time it was about straight, but as time has gone on I have come to understand that it’s not about straight, it’s about basics. The basics are the foundation of everything that comes after that.
Every person I meet around the world that does something at an elite level, when questioned, can always give me a quote on perfecting the basics.
In New Zealand I had a female boxer in my clinic. She has been boxing for 7 years, and has represented her country in boxing. When I asked her for a boxing quote about basics she said one of the most used ones is “Basics wins fights.” She also quoted Bruce Lee when she said “ I don’t fear the man who knows 10,000 punches, I fear the man who has practiced 1 punch 10,000 times.
We had an intern several years ago who had been highly involved in salsa dancing. So involved that she chose to go to college in Mexico to fully immerse herself in the salsa dance scene. When I asked her for a dance quote on basics she came out with “Beginning dancers take intermediate lessons, and intermediate dancers take advanced lessons, but advanced dancers take beginning lessons.”
I was doing a clinic in Canada one time and a young woman who was watching started knowingly nodding her head when I started the clinic talking about the importance of basics. I said to her “You seem to know what I’m talking about, let me guess, you are really good with horses ?”
She replied that no, she wasn’t really that good with horses. I said “Well obviously you are really high level at something as you know what I’m talking about. What are you high level at?” She replied that she was an elite level snowboard coach at Whistler ski resort.
The trouble with basics is they are easy to do averagely. If your basics are average, the big things will be nearly impossible, but if you can perfect the basics the big, seemingly impossible things, are easy. It’s almost as if perfecting the basics is a test of your mettle, a rite of passage, an asking of how bad do you want it ?
Author George Leonard wrote “How do you best move towards mastery? To put it simply, you must practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of practice itself. Rather than being frustrated while on the plateau, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it just as much as you do the upward surges . You need to learn to love the plateau”.
Mastering the basics is the first plateau you need to endure, and if you find that difficult, it will only get harder.
Learn to enjoy the process, and the results will follow.
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