Let's just face the facts - there is no such thing as perfection in riding!

Photo credit: N. Banaszak

It is simple and true: one merely keeps developing, and once a particular technique or skill has been mastered, the next (absolutely necessary) step must be reached for. It is inevitable - for the lifelong rider, there is no other way.

Often, the fact that perfection can never be attained is the reason we keep coming back for more. We discover growth in so many areas thanks to the interactions we have with the horse. If we can listen carefully enough, we will achieve goals that also transfer into other areas of our lives, making riding relevant not only to our physical development, but also to so much more.

We all have our flaws.

Some people are perpetual "hand riders". They ride more on the reins than with their seat and leg aids.

Many people forever lean to one side, working against tightness or rigidity in their cores. Others have to struggle with a tight lower back and pelvis, always trying to release more than their bodies are willing to permit.

A few of us rush our horses and put them on the forehand, while others ride slow and flat so their horses are unable to use their hind ends and swing in their backs.

Finally, some of us eventually realize that we have several  issues that must be overcome (!) before we can reach our potentials as riders.

After a few years in the saddle, you will be able to identify your main weaknesses and strengths, and you will know what you need to work on for a very long time.

The same can be said about our horses.

Some horses are severely one-sided. Some horses have a behavior they revert to as soon as something causes tension: rearing, bucking, ducking in or out, balking/quitting, etc.

From an outside perspective, it seems obvious that everyone has something to work on at any one point in their development, and horses are not an exception.

So how does the concept of "perfection" fit into our many inadequacies?

We will never really find the perfect horse, nor will we ever be a perfect rider. However, it would be irresponsible of me to give you the impression that riders don't try to find perfection.

Of course we try for perfect.

We learn new skills, develop our weaknesses, practice over and again. Just when things seem to become insurmountable, and the same problems reappear repeatedly, we learn that it is essential for us to put the pieces together and invest the extra effort it takes to get over the hump.

We begin to revel in the moments of glory when they occur, and then continue doggedly when they disappear. We string together a series of great steps to make one movement shine.

Then we develop performance movement to movement. Here's how.

Six steps to perfection:

1. Take lessons.

2. Identify your "normal" (unconscious?) habits that might be interfering with the horse's movement, and work tirelessly on developing your physical skill.

  1. Set goals and change them when needed.

3. Become an active rider and gently but firmly expect the horse to respond to your requests. 

4. Watch better riders and analyze their reasons for success. Then try to duplicate.

5. Take more lessons.

6. Repeat!

Because perfection for you and your horse at that moment is what it's all about!

What do you do to attain perfection in your riding?

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5 Comments

  1. Wisdom that I have now … [as a 62 yr old International BHS Instructor], there is the old saying, ‘Nothing is Perfect’. At the higher levels, it’s the little things that can get you down. If you are a determined, stubborn, perfectionist athlete, like I was… striving for perfection… can and may BURN YOU OUT. This happened to me in my 20’s after coming back to Canada. I could tell you stories of the great horses I rode and the people who mentored me. Just guard yourself against letting the all consuming techniques of riding become overly frustrating. Always, be able to get on a horse and just ride for the fun of it, rather than always training. Never forget why you fell in love with the horse.

  2. “We learn new skills, develop our weaknesses, practice over and again. Just when things seem to become insurmountable, and the same problems reappear repeatedly, we learn that it is essential for us to put the pieces together and invest the extra effort it takes to get over the hump.

    We begin to revel in the moments of glory when they occur, and then continue doggedly when they disappear.”

    Sounds like an emotional roller coaster! Too much drama for me. Riding is a process towards the goal of “perfection” (goals help define and give structure to the path of the process). There are times when despite all your efforts, the answer is elusive. More effort is not always the answer. Most people do the same thing over and over again, just harder, expecting a different and improved outcome. Usually it results in frustration. Taking the time to improve your sensory skills through slowing down, reducing effort and observing, can have a significantly positive impact on the quest for perfection. Accept mistakes as part of the process. When you learn to observe and not judge, your ability to work through your mistakes becomes easier. Mistakes and problems become intriguing rather than a source of frustration. The “moments of glory” are redefined or not as important because day to day how you ride,, mistakes and all, is far more enjoyable. Perfection is not as important since the process improves quality.
    Unconscious habits . . .how do you become aware of what you are not aware? If you learn to observe and sense, your ability to uncover habits that inhibit, progress improves. These are skills that are overlooked because the methodical, achievement oriented approach for the “perfection goal” overshadows the hidden, elusive, often non-linear process. Becoming process oriented is a skill that can be developed . . . with minimal drama.

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