After teaching a lesson yesterday, we had such an interesting conversation about the effects of learning, about expectations for their riding develop journey.
This rider has been working on being able to ride their horse on the bit in a consistent rhythm and a soft horizontal frame for the last month. All has been going well, both horse and rider have been finding this easier and easier to achieve.
So, on our lesson I decided to kick things up a bit and ask the rider to try to positively interfere with the horse's balance so that when he asked for more power the horse responded by becoming more up and forward rather than 'wheelbarrowing' down onto the forehand.
This was met with disappointment and a certain amount of frustration as the rider had set the summit of his mountain as the nice soft feeling of cantering in rhythm in a basic, horizontal balance. That was the pinnacle of his flatwork aspiration.
"The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don't know" - Einstein
I had to try to explain that the summit is never reached when training or learning with a horse. You go through a continuous process of little peaks, then plateaus or even having to go back down and come back up a different path to hopefully end up higher up the mountain the next time you start to climb.
Psychologists talk of unconscious competence (when you can complete a skill on autopilot) but that happens at a level, and then you have to let go off that comfortable feeling and push passed it, to develop your riding with a higher level of understanding, finesse and technicality but back to been consciously incompetent again until you have mastered that step up.
Frustration, anxiety, the ebb and flow of self-belief are all natural parts of the learning journey. Everybody who is serious about riding better goes through the 'I just feel like I can't ride, I don't know what I'm doing anymore' moments. It's how you decide to handle those moments that makes the difference.
Get stuck in, those are the moments of most progress, they are when change is happening.
That's also when it helps to have a mentor, your mountain guide.
Couldn't resist that amazing photo of the Rockies!🇨🇦
Canadian Paralympic dressage rider and trainer Bert Sheffield is the creator of the HeartHorse Dressage mentoring programme.