Leaping off my discussion of the trajectory of progress, I sped into a world of thinking, how do we achieve progress? Moreover, what can we, as riders, do to ensure we are moving in a direction that we like?
When I visualize the rider I want to be, how ever many years away it may be, what can I do to be that rider? It requires a foundation, a plan. Or in cooking terms – ingredients and a recipe to complete.
A phrase we hear commonly in horses – progression is not linear.
I completely concur with this statement, and I can vow the number of times my riding has taken dips and turns that have felt like regression, but overall have shifted me into a more complete and capable rider.
Loaded question, I know. Why cannot we all ride perfectly, have our horses react perfectly to the amount of pressure we elicit, and have them execute perfectly to those cues?
Well, there are many reasons. For one, we are human and horses are horses. If you are thinking *no duh* and doing a facepalm, I dare you to keep reading. A point will be made, eventually.
Beyond the unavoidable things that happen to divert us from perfection, what’s wrong with striving for it?
Perfection has a lot of weight to carry. It means that every component of the picture has the same amount of attention to detail.
In the context of horses, this means not jumping a course of crossrails until you master the transition to the canter. And before you produce an uphill, engaged, and straight canter departure, it means building a connected, marching walk.
Before you even step in the saddle, you must command your horse successfully to stand quietly at the mounting block. Before reaching the mounting block, your horse must walk respectfully next to you, listening to your body, hand, voice as you lead them.
I could go on. Perfection is hard. Perfection is work. Perfection is unachievable.
Why strive for something unattainable?
This is my new state of mind lately with horses and work. If we use an excuse that it will “never happen” to be perfect, then why bother trying to improve?
Asking “what’s the point” is defeatist. We all have room to grow. To focus on the shortfall we will always have limits our potential.
Be healthy in your mindset, strive for perfection, and celebrate your progress.
/ end monologue
How do you all handle the idea of perfection as it relates to horses?
There can be real frustration in riding so many horses over your lifetime. Sure, it is really wonderful and valuable to sit on a lot of different types and get to refine the asks.
But, sometimes there is not a sequential progression as a rider. I step into bad habits on specific horses and jump to another before I fully resolve them.
Because of that, I feel as though I am a library of slightly-aggressive, make-it-work methods. In fact, my recent solo hacks has been really restorative for me to focus once again on the fundamentals.
In my collegiate and early adult riding, much of the focus has fallen on the needs of whatever horse I was riding, and you can see the evidence of that in my weaknesses.
A dirty stopper encouraged me to drive with my tailbone.
A heavy mouth gave me broken wrists and open fingers.
A speedy, flat jumper gave me quick, over-active shoulders.
All of my mishaps originate from poorly-executed attempts of correcting a behavior or dealing with a quirk.
I’ve become this patchwork of the past horses I’ve ridden. In turn, this has made me cautious, skeptical, and untrusting.
I need to become a better partner in the future, because they do not deserve to be haunted by the horses of my past.
I continue to struggle with linear growth as someone who, by the nature of my circumstances, will always be hopping from horse to horse. I can ride almost anything, but I want to excel and really communicate better with the animals that I sit on.
I do think I am getting more opportunities for specificity now, and I am hoping that when I one day own my own horse, all my tools and tips will help that horse as a well-rounded rider that can handle curveballs.