- Great ride - let's do it again!
- Things started out so-so and got better.
- Things started out OK and stayed OK.
- Things started out so-so and went downhill from there.
- It was awful - I don't know if I want to (or can) do that again.
Sometimes there's a lot of emotional content, including disappointment, feelings of failure and self-doubt, and worry that there isn't progress, or worse that things may be going backwards. Some of this, it seems to me, is as much about the expectations we place on ourselves, as about the horses and what they do.
Thinking about that prompted me to reread a post of mine from last year: "What Is Progress?" - if you haven't read that one before, you might want to take the time now - it's long - before reading the rest of this post.
One thing that brought home to me is how important it is to ride the horse you have today. That's one of the first things I learned when I started riding with Mark Rashid, and it's really stuck with me as a core principle. I have to have a plan when I ride - often a very detailed one with specific steps and objectives in mind - but I also have to work with the horse who shows up on that day. Sometimes that means that I change what I'm doing, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes external factors enter in - the weather, other riders, a mare being in heat, a physical issue that comes up (me or the horse), or just plain the moods the horse and I are in that day.
Disappointment, discouragement and self-doubt often come from a mismatch of expectations and outcome. If you brought all of yourself to the horse, and you didn't get done what you'd expected, or something didn't come out the way you planned, there's no need for feeling let down, although it's a very common human response. I do try to find a way to end any session doing something the horse can feel satisfaction about, even if it's a basic task they've long ago mastered. Regardless of what horse shows up, and what I do or don't get accomplished on any particular day, as long as I'm there honestly trying to work with and listen to the horse, with humility, there is a building up of our relationship, and yes, progress, even if it may not look like it.