Readers’ Choice: Adjusting Your Expectations…

It is great to come out everyday with a goal, an idea of what you would like to achieve.

It is also great to have a long term vision, a set of objectives with set times frames.

However, I read a quote recently that said “Peace Begins when Expectation Ends”, and I realise the importance of this truth in dressage training.

“Peace Begins when Expectation Ends” (unknown author)

It is great to set high expectations for yourself and for your horse, but if by chance you fall short of those ideals, often we are over critical or even a little harsh on ourselves afterwards.

If I come out for training and decide that today I am going to fix my position, then perhaps I am expecting too much and thus setting myself up to fail.

If however I come out and say today I will work on getting more relaxation in my legs, then it is more likely that my expectation will be met, and that tomorrow I can work on a different aspect.

If I decide today I am going to do the whole test perfectly, again I’m over shooting. If I select two or three movements of the test, and work on perfecting them, then I have more chance of a satisfied ride and a less confused and tired horse.

I have often heard people coming back after injury, or bringing their horse back after injury, saying things like “But I was expecting to be here by this date, so I’m going to have to push it.”

Expectations with deadlines are super, but setbacks are a natural and very real part of dressage training, and the ability to adjust your expectations, is just as important as your ability to set them in the first place.

I had expectations of where I wanted to be and when, but after the decision to geld my horses I had to rearrange my goals in order to give myself, and my horse time to recover and adjust.

If we set too much of our goals in concrete, we set ourselves up for disappointment, but if we make goals, understanding that they must remain flexible, we allow ourselves and our horses the opportunity to be in the moment.

Don’t end all expectation, but allow yourself the peace that comes from the ability to adjust them every now and then according to where you are on your journey.

Warney’s Whip

For the full article on learning to ride in the moment, click here and go to Eurodressage 😉

Finish On A High

My grandparents were married for over 60 years, and my grandma’s golden rule was “To never go to sleep angry”.

The reasoning was of course that she wanted to finish each day with positive emotions, in order to wake up feeling happy and ready to start the new day ;).

If you want to establish a long and healthy relationship with your horse, this rule can be applied in a new way, and I say “Always finish your training on a high!”

What does that mean?

Some days you come out into the arena, and from start to finish you feel that your horse is with you, and listening to you, and on these days finishing on a high is easy.

“Always finish your training on a high!”

On the days where you are feeling less capable, or having trouble with a particular movement, always try to finish that movement, and the training session, with something you accomplished and executed well!

For example, if I am working on the half pass, and I am just not getting it how I would like it, finish that work with a very well executed leg yield, and then reward the horse.

If you are having a day where you feel you cannot achieve anything you had set your mind to, finish on something you know you both do really well, and congratulate your horse.

When you leave the arena you want both you and your horse to think, well I did that really well, even if the “that” was not the difficult exercise you had been working on.

If you try to do the perfect canter pirouette, and you end up in a big mess, and your horse gets stiff or takes over, and you keep trying to do it and in the end you just give up, you will leave the arena A, feeling like you are a failure, and B with a horse that will remember that this dressage stuff is a whole lot of hard work.

If you know the canter pirouette is not yet there, finish that series of exercises with 4 strides of on the spot collected canter, and reward your horse for his brilliance.

He will remember how much fun it was to collect the canter, and next time you ask for more, who knows he might be so proud of himself, he will give you the full pirouette.

I’ve seen riders who not only finish on a low note in the training, but then also leave the stable in a bad mood and don’t say goodbye to their horse.

One of the truly undefined yet powerful aspects of dressage is the psychological link between horse and rider, and if you don’t foster that, you can’t expect greatest in the arena.

Even if you had a ride that was not your best and you are late for work, or feeling tired, or hungry, take two seconds to just say thank you to your horse, pat him, give him a carrot or two.

It may seem simple, but my grandma was onto something, and if when you leave your horse, you pass on good energies, loving thoughts, praise and gratefulness, he will be that much happier to see you tomorrow 😉 .

Click here to learn about dealing with frustration at Eurodressage

Getting a sore back before, after, or on the horse? Click to here to get fit for riding!

Insight: Searching For Your Calm…

The things people tell us affect us, even when we try not to let them.

IMG_0262The right compliment can change a person’s day, the wrong comment can ruin it.

Typically I have found though, that the best words or the worst remarks, are only worth the value of the person telling them.

When I was young I had two trainers, my mum, and a friend of mum’s called Marie.

I wanted desperately to be a cowgirl, and thought dressage was terribly boring and in fact I remember once just jumping out of the arena and riding off down to the bush.

As I grew up, and falling off onto a log or into a creek became less appealing, I grew to like the art of dressage.

“The right compliment can change a person’s day, the wrong comment can ruin it.”

I learned to enjoy striving for perfection, for straightness, and accuracy, and all the things that as I child I found particularly uninteresting.

Marie was not one to give away a compliment, and the first time she told me that I had “done quite a good test”, I felt like I’d just been told it was the perfect test of Olympic standard 😉

photo-3Recently in an email Marie said to me that she always thought I would pursue dressage, even when I was flying about in ‘should be’ circles on my pony, as I had a great empathy for the animal that is the horse.

That compliment has stayed with me to this day. Just recently doesn’t need to stay with you to this day because it was just recent???

On the other hand people can say things that may hurt us, whether or not that is their intention, and it is up to us to decide if their comment has value, if their intention is good.

The trick is to pay attention to what the person is really trying to achieve, and be aware if their words can in anyway help you see things in a new way.

If a person on the street calls out at you that you are fat, it’s quite possible they are just bored and insecure about their own bodies, but if a doctor tells you, chances are he is trying to get you to take more care of your health.

Truth is everyone has something they are good at, and something that needs work, and some people might spend their whole lives never working out which is which.

I found that dressage or horse riding was my passion not only because of empathy for the horse, but because it is the one true, and only time that my otherwise very busy mind is quiet.

It’s not nagging me about what I will do next, or what happened before, or who I should be or what I didn’t do. It’s not stressing about the pain in my back, or the chocolate block I just ate, or the things I should be doing.

“Truth is everyone has something they are good at, and something that needs work, and some people might spend their whole lives never working out which is which.”

It’s just there, in the moment, with my horse.

Finding that one thing in your life, that thing that gives you calm, is not always easy, but listening to the right people, people with the good intention, can help you find it.

It might be helping another person to do what makes them calm, it might be as a teacher who teaches others to find their calm, or it might be in the thing that you fear the most, that gives you your window and allows you to think only in that moment, and in nothing else.

Some people I am told have that ability all the time, I am not one of those people, but I consider myself truly lucky to have found the thing that gives me that window, the moment of now.

If you are not sure if you have found that, chances are you probably haven’t, and I suggest you think on finding it, as it may just help you be better in every other thing that you do.