It’s a horse NOT a robot!

Hard work = results, right? well yes, but progress is sadly not quite that easy or linear when it comes to horses.

When things are going well it’s easy to imagine that success can be incrementally built on. In this ideal situation if you charted your progress throughout your riding career it should appear as a straight line graph beginning at the bottom with competing at little local competitions ending up at the peak with you storming round 4*’s with the rest of the best! If only….

riding graphAlong the way there are many moments when things seem to fall apart, when what previously seemed like a piece of cake has now become an issue.  I’m sure I’m not alone and that everyone has felt this at times, probably most common when having issues jumping when things go wrong then even the smallest 1ft fence suddenly grows to Beechers’ Brook proportions! Even the basics can fail you, and leave you sitting in the saddle, wracking your brains for some hint or clue as to how you can repair what seems to have deteriorated seemingly overnight, and this happens because?….. horses are NOT robots.

Walter Zettle really taught me this (in his brilliant book Dressage In Harmony) and so I owe all credit to him for this logic which I am about to try and recount in my own words.

The human brain is mathematical, we like to look for patterns, we like to join the dots together in order to make sense of things. So when we do well at something it is our natural disposition to try and ‘do better next time’ ‘build on what we have achieved’ and yes that’s all very well and good and should be every competitive rider’s over arching aim, to improve. The trouble comes when we lose sight of this as a long term goal and look for increasing improvement day after day eg ‘my horse went really well yesterday so he should go even better today’

robot horseHorses are living breathing creatures, like us they have good days, like us they have bad days, and it’s crucial we try never to lose sight of this. I like to run in my spare time and my running attitude and performance can vary wildly, some days I am really keen (and in my mind’s eye I am gazelle like and fleet of foot over hill and dale) and others it’s more of a slog, only enjoyable by its completion. If I look at my performance, in comparison, my horse is extremely consistent and willing and has a much better work ethic than me, something which should never be taken for granted.

So on those days when things are not going to plan, make a new plan, make a plan based around what you CAN achieve and improve that day. As the rider we have the choice to use our skill and wit to adjust our training plan to fit with our horse, which in theory should lead to a valuable training session each time we ride. (I say ‘should’ because after all we are ‘only human’ too)

I am by no means an authority on riding (I’m not sure I’m an authority on anything come to think of it!) but having had one of those awful sessions last night where nothing could go right, I found myself down in the dumps, down on myself, and down beat about my horse. Until I stepped back from the situation realised actually how much progress we have made already, and re-read the wise words of Walter.

So to all fellow competitive riders out there striving to improve and progress ‘chin up’ when things are going down the drain, look at the long term goal, and remember your horse is not a robot and neither are you!

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