Make Mistakes!
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 09:00 AM
When me and my family moved to North America my son was 3 years old. He just started talking in Russian and didn't know any English, neither did I! My husband had a working visa and I stayed home with our son. One of our favorite animated series was "Magic School Bus". Ms Frizzle had a phrase she loved to repeat to her students:Get messy! Make Mistakes!
These are actually very profound words! Not only human nature but the whole society has a tendency to view mistakes very negatively. If you make a mistake it means you screwed up, you are a loser, you do not know, etc... Which naturally makes people want to avoid making mistakes. The problem is not that avoidance prevent mistakes from happening. The problem is that avoidance makes us ignore mistakes, blank out and pretend they are not there.
There is another problem. People will much more likely accept a mistake done by someone else but not by them. Again, they do not need to try to figure things out, they didn't do it!
However, mistakes are how we learn. If you have never made mistakes you have never really tried to learn anything on a deep level. By struggling to figure things out, making mistakes, processing them, raking your brain for the ideas and solutions, advancing slowly, practicing something that just a bit harder then you can do - you end up learning, acquiring and improving your skills, developing mastery.
There is a great book on the subject by Daniel Coyle The Talent Code Greatness isn't born. It's grown. Here's how. One of the most important messages from this book is developing a skill requires a great deal of focused practice, attention to details, making mistakes and processing them and learning from them, willingness to venture into unknown, patience and perseverance to keep going when it is hard.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better. - Samuel Beckett
If we look at riding from this perspective we can see that careless riding ( hacking on a loose rein, bouncing around paying attention to anything but your horse, spending more time chatting with boarders/staff then riding, going around through the patterns for the sake of patterns, etc) will not help a rider develop her/his skills. That is why soooo many riders are stuck at the same level of skills for years! Riders can ride their horses regularly and never actually get better because they do not take time to try something harder, to ask a question of why and how, seek help and solutions and commit to practice - focused practice, meaningful practice. Daniel Coyle in his book calls it Deep Practice.
Deep Practice for a Rider
  • Use walk to learn new movements (e.g. shoulder-in), new feelings (e.g. sitting even, contact and it's maintenance), new concepts (e.g. bend)
  • Use Walk-Trot transitions to learn sitting trot. By doing 100s of transitions with only a few strides of walk and trot you will learn much faster and better than sitting miles of trot, especially stiff and unbalanced
  • Ride without stirrups
  • Have a goal/s for yourself to work on each ride. For example - steady, level hands, or quiet leg, or looking up. On more advanced level things like connecting my right ribcage to my left seatbone.
  • Find a good coach to take regular lessons. Pick one that is specific, particular, explains things, not afraid of questions and doesn't allow mindless run through patterns. To get the most from your lessons write down notes. Do it in hand writing to process better.
  • Last but not least, ride at least 3 times a week. 5 is better. Riding different horses at least on occasion is even better. Switch horses with your friends once in a while.
Also, off the horse work on improving your body awareness, posture, balance, breathing, strength and suppleness specific to riding. Resources on the Internet are too numerous to list! To get inspired, regularly watch on Youtube your favorite rider/s of a very advanced level in your discipline.
Deep Practice for a Horse
  • Transitions! - of all sorts and in all sorts of situations. Ride WAY more transitions within the gait, between the gaits, inside the movements, between the movements. Transitions improve your horse's balance, coordination, mental focus, pushing power, carrying power. They create opportunities for mistakes. They show your horse's weaknesses. They also show your weaknesses in balance, suppleness, stability and coordination.
  • Lateral Work - including transitions between the movements, changing bend, line, gait, etc. For example, do not ride long stretches of shoulder in over and over again. Horses get tired and find the way to cheat. Instead ride a short piece of shoulder-in, observe carefully what is happening and change to renvers, to half pass, to medium trot depending on your horse's problems. Lateral movements include: turn on the forehand in motion, turn on the haunches/pirouettes, leg-yield, shoulder-in, counter shoulder in, travers, renvers, half pass. On straight lines, bending lines, changes between lines (e.g. start on straight then move into the circle doing same movement).
  • Neck control - regularly changing your horse's neck position during the work, particularly lowering it in difficult movements improves throughness, suppleness, obedience and focus. A horse can get stiff inside the movement. Most of the time stiffness manifests in the neck. If neck is rigid something is wrong and continuing as is useless if not harmful. Being aware of ability to change neck position helps you to practice with more attention to details, challenging yourself and your horse to work harder, make mistakes and learn from them. Asking a question why the neck got rigid will lead you to explore deeper what is going on - lack of balance, bend, engagement, focus and/or general difficulty, etc...
Deep practice will lead you toward an amazing path of self discoveries, bulb moments, progress and development. However, be prepared to work hard not in terms of strength and endless hours but in terms of intense focus, keeping standards high, noticing mistakes and looking for the ways to fix them. Keep very positive attitude, especially, toward your horse. He is not human, does not have your goals and inspirations. Do not blame your mistakes on him. See that he is actually trying to figure things out and sometimes does exactly what you ask even if you didn't intend it. :)
Pause. Think. Try again!
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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