Stewardship: (noun) the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care
Bill Walsh, head coach of the 49ers football team. Not exactly the author of a book you'd expect to see me curled up with, but I've been learning so much from it.
He writes extensively about paying keen attention to details, that pride in one's effort is more important than pride in the results (minding that the effort is intelligently placed), and much more.
Today I'm going to write about his Standards of Performance.
Attention to details encourages respect, pride, and stewardship. Having clean horses and tack, riding with a correct basic balanced position, possessing a baseline of fitness and flexibility... these things form the foundation of a 'pretty picture' or a harmonious relationship. (As an aside, I believe that George Morris and Bill Walsh could have a lively conversation about the commonality between their leadership techniques.)
Clean horses and tack: Not only is a clean horse more attractive, but a clean horse is more well-known to the person who groomed him. You can more easily identify when a horse is sore, you can catch fungus or scurf before it gets out of hand, you can know the places your horse loves to be touched and the places he is more sensitive. A thinking rider can easily carry this knowledge to under-saddle work. Clean tack is also well-known tack - this is a basic safety check that takes very little knowledge to implement.
Riding with a basic balanced position: It takes a great deal of skill to climb the levels of dressage or of jumping, but essentially no skill is required to check in with a basic position. Is my stirrup on the correct place of my foot? Are my reins even? Am I sitting up? Am I looking up and not at my horse? These are elements of a correct position that anyone can master with persistence.
Possessing a baseline of fitness and flexibility: Related to keeping a clean horse, maintaining a baseline of fitness allows you as a rider to know your own strengths and weaknesses. It allows you to learn more quickly as your body is more accustomed to being shaped.
I believe it's consistent execution of these basics that leads to performance.