Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Accept a Little

I always seem to forget the middle part of the maxim: expect a lot, accept a little, reward often. Too often I "expect a lot" but I also "accept a lot." I seem to have this idea that if Cricket gets it right once, she should get it right all the time. I'm becoming more aware but I think this is the biggest challenge in my horsemanship.

Walter Zettl writes about the dangers of a good ride in his book Dressage in Harmony. I wish I had the book in front on me so I could quote it directly. A good ride is, of course, a wonderful thing. The next day, however, we may feel an increased pressure to perform as well as the previous day. The pressure causes tension which interferes with our ability to relax. All of this transmits to the horse and he becomes tense. The second ride has no chance of being as good as the first because we get in our way and in our horse's way. So Walter says only expect the next ride to be 75% of the previous ride. In this way we give ourselves permission to have a bad day, we are not overly critical of every mistake our horse makes and we have room to say, "well that was better than I expected." In this way we have the possibility but not the expectation of another "good ride."

My Parelli instructor talks about "pleased but not satisfied." It goes along with Pat's maxim and Walter's caution. It's the idea that you should always be pleased with what your horse offers but at the same time not wholly satisfied. Have you ever worked for or with someone who was never pleased? What was your attitude towards that person? Towards the work you were asked to do? When we fail to be pleased with what our horses offer, the happy attitude we want to see begins to flicker and fade. Playing is just a euphemism for work and the seven games quickly become the seven jobs and then the seven tortures. Accepting a little means being pleased. Expecting a lot means not being satisfied and always searching for more (sound like good, better, best!).

I took Cricket back into the round pen yesterday for another session with our liberty figure 8 pattern. I expected her to remember everything from the previous session (three days ago). I expected her to just know that she needed to be with me. All of this is very subtle and very subconscious. In trying to have everything go as beautifully as it did on Saturday, I failed to appreciate some of the very cool stuff we accomplished:

  • My sweet left brain introvert is developing some beautiful balance between introversion and extroversion. The pendulum has taken some dramatic swings but more and more I'm seeing her find a soft, happy medium where she is willing to go, willing to whoa and is present in the moment, even if she needs just a little time to think.
  • She offered me fifteen laps in a 60' round corral of the sweetest canter. She was relaxed, balanced, forward, soft, connected - everything that makes you go "damn, I wish I was riding that."
  • We played with the 45' line as a neck rope for the first time and she acted like she'd been doing it all her life.
  • In our continuing quest for spins at liberty, she not only gave me 1-2 without blasting off, but she started to offer a spin when I asked for a draw.
  • Our figure 8 session had a few great liberty patterns but I began introducing figure 8 on line using the neck rope and her expressions were happy and soft.
So my goal for my next session is to continue the liberty work but to remember to accept a little. To be pleased with what Cricket offers and to build on that so we continue to improve. How has your horse pleased you lately?

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