EQUUS - - Conformati­on Insights -

There is an im­por­tant dif­fer­ence be­tween es­sen­tials and “ba­sics.” You will not al­ways be prac­tic­ing ba­sics, i.e., the very first and very sim­plest ex­er­cises. The fa­mous Zen story sums up the ap­pren­tice’s daily rou­tine as “chop wood; carry wa­ter.” Forty years go by—now the ap­pren­tice is a mas­ter— and what is his daily rou­tine? “Chop wood, carry wa­ter.” Ba­sics be­come es­sen­tials when you prac­tice them to re­ple­tion so that do­ing them be­comes re­flex­ive—a way of life. A mas­ter is one who prac­tices es­sen­tials for the sheer plea­sure of ex­plor­ing all their myr­iad vari­a­tions and im­pli­ca­tions and who is thus able to en­joy the ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ence of rid­ing upon the plateau.

The pat­terns of the Dab­bler and the Ob­ses­sive are sim­i­lar, ex­cept that the Ob­ses­sive adds an at­ti­tude of grim de­ter­mi­na­tion. The Dab­bler hits the first plateau, then crashes and burns; but be­fore crash­ing, the Ob­ses­sive tries to force re­sults. While this is not good in any walk of life, the Ob­ses­sive will be es­pe­cially hard on horses, be­cause horses com­pre­hend nei­ther am­bi­tion nor com­pe­ti­tion.

The Hacker goes through the same ini­tial ex­cite­ment and makes the same in­cre­ments of progress as ev­ery­body else, but he or she mis­uses the plateau by camp­ing out on it. Lazi­ness, com­pla­cency, “fear of fly­ing” or plain old phys­i­cal fear of fall­ing off may drive this pat­tern in rid­ers. Ray Hunt urged rid­ers not to fall into this pat­tern by say­ing, “I hope you’re not just try­ing to ‘get by’ with your horse.”

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