These intensive lessons are a great challenge for all my riders and they sure are for myself too. You know, I think it's relatively "easy" to walk into an arena and run a few good lessons. When I don't stop for 12 hours, issues that barely matter when I take breaks, become difficult to deal with when my brain is in overdrive non stop. And while I notice a shift in my perception, quickness of thought (or lack of it), patience level etc somehow I do enjoy being put on that spot so I can figure out how to get better.
It teaches me not to involve myself in rider's problem (which is what I often tell them about their horse's problem ;) ) but to be able to stand aside and help constructively.
Learning is a funny thing. We are used to learning new things as children but the older we get we tend to think we learn slower/worse/are unable to learn. As children, we tend to be creative and experiment with things, movements, actions. As adults, we look for perfection and ideal execution...from the word go...
One thing that I have learnt and the knowledge of which I probably appreciate the most is to never aim for perfection...Yes it's a controversial thought in a world of sport in general but that's a subject for another post.
“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” Brené Brown
Some courage is always needed in order to learn. Having taught hundreds of riders I do believe that it is that courage to "have a beginner's mind" is what separates those who continue to improve from those who never do.
“Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?” ― Brené Brown,
Some riders like the idea of improvement but for whatever reason are not prepared to put the effort in. Some put so much effort in they burn out.
It is believed that riding and training horses builds ones character. I do think this is true but only if, again, we are open to learn new things, new feels and new solutions. In the same way as our posture is defined by our every day life and we can't just amend it for an hour on a horse, it seems to me that it's the same with the rest of the shebang...
If we are impatient, easily frustrated, lacking empathy, have a need to control everything in every day life, those tendencies won't disappear just because we sat in the saddle...If we work on the "whole picture" then the horse goes better too. In that respect I do think training can make someone a better version of oneself.
When I teach or ride, I like to look at that whole picture. Try to figure out how much to push a rider/horse without them losing too much confidence, how much to ask for a bit better version without destroying the good version.
The skill is like a muscle tissue. You have to destroy the current one a little bit before it can regenerate and build a new, better one. That's where some riders struggle the most because being in the stage where nothing seems to get better, everything is hard and falls apart, is not easy. But that's where I think the courage lies - you got to have it to endure the plateau...
It's the same for me when I teach. Sometimes everything works. I look at horse and rider walk into the arena and I *know* what to do and how to change things in a similar way as you might see fridge full of ingredients and know what you might cook ;)
Sometimes I look but all I can see is a lot of puzzles all with the same image of sky and hell knows how they will slot together. This is especially so with more experienced riders where I don't want to destroy their riding feel and style. I start trying to slot something here and there and that's when my own learning happens.
I might say to the rider "I don't know how we are going to correct this yet, but I will know" - there is never a "no way" as long as you are prepared not to try to be perfect straight away.
You've got to be brave and ask questions - of yourself, of your horse. I feel that those intensive sessions do create a bit of a whirl for everyone, myself included, and one day it might be hard and stressful just to become manageable the next day.
The most rewarding of all for me is watching the riders go through those stages and keep going. Nothing substitutes experience :)
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CAMP:
Until next time :)