When you are riding, do you "practice" your ride?
Do you give your horse and yourself a break when things go wrong?
Do you approach "mistakes" with a forgiving attitude, thinking that this is just one practice in a million, and there will be chances to improve over time?
I have to admit to myself - not all the time.
Sometimes, I get wrapped up in making it happen "right now". Sometimes, when things don't fall together at the right time, I feel discouraged.
I feel like I've failed my horse. Other times, I feel like the horse has let me down.
Practice Your Ride
As I walked into the yoga studio the other day, I was greeted by my yoga teacher with:
"What a wonderful day to practice."
The word "practice" resonated in my mind for a moment. Naturally, I made a horse-riding connection.
"Practice" refers to repetitiveness, habitual performance and regular training. There is a sense of repeating to seek improvement. But the key underlying sense of the term is that if things don't go right, you can try, try again.
When you practice something, you know it doesn't count.
The concept brings a positive sense to a situation. When you practice, it means you are trying to improve yourself. The world is on your side, you know you have a second and third chance.
Mistakes are forgiven. There is room for improvement. You have more time. You have more tries.
You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you'll be given another chance. You know that if things don't go as well as planned this time, you will eventually get to the point where you want to be, because you have all the time in the world to improve yourself.
Find the balance between achieving and letting go.
Of course we don't want to do badly when we ride. It is obvious that we want to seek harmony, stay in balance and be there for our horses. It is through practicing that we can discover the areas we need to improve upon and how to use our aids clearly.
But things do not always go as planned!
When this happens to you, it is time to sit back and reflect - it's OK for things to not go perfectly. There is always the next try, the next day, the next week.
Give yourself some slack. Be kind and appreciative to your horse even if you DIDN'T get what you wanted right away.
Be prepared to try, try again. Maybe there is something you can change. Is there a different sequence of aids you can use? Were your aids too tight/loose/quick/slow? Is your horse in the right frame of mind? Maybe achieving only 50% of your goal is just fine for today.
Discover the things not to do and as a byproduct, the things to do. Keep trouble-shooting but avoid building tension and getting stressed.
And if all else fails, quit while you're ahead.
Feel the freedom that practice can give you. It is not essential to be perfect, because so long as you keep practicing, the achievement will come on its own. Let it go and enjoy your ride!
There's always tomorrow.
I looked into my yoga instructor's eyes, enjoying the deeper understanding (and riding connections) I had just made with just that simple word "practice". I felt a sense of relief in knowing that I wasn't going to be expected to be perfect in my yoga practice that day. I also gave myself the permission to enjoy that same feeling in my future horseback rides!
Do you regularly "practice" during your rides? Is there a time in your riding where the concept of practicing could fit in? Do you or can you let go of the tension that comes along with perfectionism and relax more into the rhythm of trying differently the next time? Share your observations in the comments below.
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