Have you ever begun sorting something out, a room or a wardrobe perhaps? Halfway through, you find yourself in the middle of a bigger mess than when you began the process. In fact, it is usually at this point that you begin asking yourself why, in the name of all that is good in the world, did you begin in the first place!
Your riding is similar. Often, as riders, we need to actually realize that things are going to get messier, sometimes quite a bit messier before they begin turning into what actually wants to see in our riding.
When I am working with riders, I often see them cling onto certain elements in their riding. Things that they feel they have ‘mastered’ already. Unfortunately, often when we find ourselves overly attached to a certain thing or way of doing something, that is the very reason we need to let it go.
The thing we are so proud of or attached to becomes the very reason we stop moving forward and stop seeing progress with whatever we are doing.
‘Letting Go’ of Certain Things
There is a process that most things in life adhere to when it comes to learning and growing. This process involves things regularly being cast aside or ‘put down’. This is in order to create space for new things to show up.
Holding onto old things and old ways of doing things is very often what is blocking you from reaching the next level when it comes to your riding.
Take a halt for example. I can bet that how you halt today with your horse looks very different from the very first halt you ever asked for with a horse. Most rider’s first halt involves an embarrassingly over-reliance on the rein aids – and not much else! Whereas now, yes, your rein aids are still part of the process, however, you have let go of the sole reliance on them and rather begun including other aids in there as well.
It is important to recognize that what got you to where you are right now in your riding is not what is going to take you to the next level of being a rider.
You will have to ‘let go’ of certain ways you’re currently doing things. This can be aids or habits. It can also be a way of thinking about things. And then, you must find new things to begin picking up…
‘Picking up’ New Things
What is important to remember when it comes to collecting new methods and skills is that they must serve you where you are right now. Learning to discern the ‘right’ things you need at this exact point in your riding is a skill many riders overlook. In fact, a lot of riders don’t even realize it is something that they must learn to do!
In order to get to the next level in your riding development, you will have to begin leveraging new skills and ways of thinking in your riding.
Again, if we take the halt example from earlier, it was not that you simply stopped using your reins too much to ask for a halt. It was rather that you began learning new ways to ask the same question. New skills. And while someone probably told you this, you also had to get your mind to ‘buy-in’ to the fact that this was possible for you to achieve.
I think that the issue begins when we reach a new level and get really excited and proud by how things ‘look’ at this new place. We are reluctant to then ‘break it down’ again in order to go further… But breaking it down is what is usually essential if we want to move forward with our horse and our riding.
Accepting it will feel Uncomfortable!
Change is uncomfortable for our minds to process and handle. Your mind is designed to keep you safe. And the old adage ‘better the devil you know’ is how your mind really works here. When it knows it, even if it is not positively serving you, your mind is happier. Even thinking about doing things differently can often be uncomfortable for the mind.
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is at the other side of your comfort zone” is so true. I would love if you could, right this moment, accept that getting comfortable with getting uncomfortable is the way forward for you and your riding.
It will almost always feel uncomfortable to leave something behind. Remember, what you have right now feels comfortable for ‘right now’. But you want to move forward. So putting a few things down, and picking up a different few things, is necessary to do this.
Some Boundaries Must Be Moved
We all have boundaries in our lives and in our riding. Boundaries are there because they have served us in some way in the past. However, we regularly outgrow our current boundaries; and reaching the next level in your riding is a great example of this.
In order to grow as a rider, you will often have to mindfully move the boundaries you have put in place in your riding.
I go into far more detail about this inside of Groundwork For Riding, however, let me quickly explain this here and now for you. A boundary is like an agreement. Sometimes it can be an agreement between you and someone else, maybe your horse. Or sometimes it is an agreement you have made with yourself.
Often we create boundaries without even realizing it. However, they are easy to recognize once you begin to apply mindfulness to how you are feeling as you ride. Each time you begin feeling mentally uncomfortable, you are getting close to an existing boundary.
Pay attention and notice your feelings. They will allow you to identify where you have created boundaries; and what boundaries are no longer serving you in your riding. Remember, they served you at some point, but to grow or expand, they are actually now what is holding you back.
Learning to Coordinate New Things
So as you begin ‘letting go’ of some ways of doing things or ways of thinking in your riding, you pick up new things. And, just like if you actually fill your arms with new items, it will take you a while to find a comfortable way of making these things fit together and serve you in your riding.
Many riders expect to learn something new and for it to automatically fit in with all the other things they are already doing in their riding. It won’t.
You will either have to create space for it, by putting something down. Or coordinate it with the existing things you are doing or carrying. This new ‘learning to coordinate’ is what makes progress seem and feel messy for riders. However, it is an essential process for you to go through in your riding.
It is also a process that you will revisit again and again, as you begin to approach each new level with your skills and development as a rider.
This is why I personally enjoy the training scale method for developing horses and riders. It allows you to revisit the same principles, but through the filter of something new depending on where you are in your journey.
Plateaus in Your Riding
Regardless of what you put down or pick up, there will come a point where you will begin to feel comfortable and coordinated carrying the ‘stuff’ you have acquired at this point in your riding journey.
It is when we stay at this level of comfort for too long, that we begin to feel like we are on a plateau as far as progress is concerned.
I believe it is important to celebrate your ‘wins’ and reaching the next level in your riding. But I also think that it is equally as important to begin looking at the next level in your riding. Identifying what the next level is for you and your riding will allow you to begin figuring out what needs to stay and what needs to go in order for you to get there.
There is a limited number of things you can coordinate when in the saddle. This is because some things working against or being counterproductive to other methods and ways. Clarity is required if you are to really succeed in moving forward.
And if you do find yourself knee-deep in the ‘messy middle’ right now, in your riding, celebrate it. It simply means that you are well on your way to reaching a new level – and a new comfort zone – soon.
Horse riding will always challenge us, mentally and physically. Don’t allow an emotional discomfort to hold you back from having better conversations with your horse going forward.
Resources that Will Help with This Topic
- The Free Equestrian Fitness Challenge
- Groundwork for Riding -a 4-week program to improve your conversation on the ground
- Lunging for Riding – a 4-week program that will allow you to use lunging as a powerful tool in your riding and training
- My free Strides for Success Online Community
- Subscribe to the Daily Strides Podcast