Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When You're In A Hole, Stop Digging

Success equals mental preparation -- that's what Henrik pointed out at the instructors' seminar I attended. I can't argue with that. All things being equal, I can achieve my future goal for my horse only if I am sufficiently mentally prepared for each day's lesson and have a route planned to my vision of the future.

It sounds simple enough. Know where I'm going, pull out the road map, and learn the route.

Simple. Right. Ha, ha.

How many times have I ridden my horse thinking I was doing all the right things only to realize progress toward my goal had not only stalled out, but was deteriorating by the minute?

It's kind of like driving down a road, full of confidence my destination is minutes away, and then, after a while (a really long while), wondering why the scenery hasn't changed. Come to find out, I've been stuck in the mud, spinning my wheels. How did I not notice? It sure explains all those people standing around, exchanging glances and whispering among themselves. I could tell them I meant to get buried up to my axels, but we'd all know better.


It's about that time I start to realize, yet again, part of mental preparation is becoming familiar with what should be happening all along the way -- not just at the end when I've reached my goal. The route includes my ability to recognize the boggy places when encountered or, better yet, beforehand so they can be avoided.

Having someone point those mucky spots out is invaluable. But that can't happen every time I ride. Part of this learning process is to recognize, more quickly, when I get stuck. With luck -- okay, with sufficient mental preparation and luck -- I'll remember the tools to help extract me from the bog. Then, at some time in the future when I've experienced my quota of muck, I'll be able to avoid digging myself in. I'll have learned to see it coming and plotted the route around. Better yet, I'll have found the road without the potholes.

Until then, I'll have to be vigilant: Keep my goal in mind without seeking out the problems. I'd really hate to find out I've been planning a route from one problem to the next instead of my goal.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Plan: Have A Plan

Late last month I had the opportunity to ride in a dressage clinic with Henrik Johansen. I love riding in clinics with him. He's a wonderful teacher. I always leave excited about riding and knowing where I need to improve. 

This time was no different. I rode my friend Fable because Eddie, although back to work again, is not far enough along in his rehab to endure the demands of a weekend clinic. I've ridden Fable in the past couple of clinics and it works well, since I bring the lessons I learn home to Eddie. I did this time too, of course.

As I was riding one of the exercises Henrik had coached me through at the clinic, I started thinking about something else he'd said. "Ride with a plan. Don't ride by reacting to the horse."

Was I doing that?

Well … sort of. I had a plan, but I was very intent on figuring out if Eddie was actually doing it. 

I changed my thinking. I took a deep breath, squared up my posture and let go of all that "gotta do it" tension.

"I am doing the exercise correctly myself," I said, not entirely believing it. "And when I do it right, it feels exactly like this." (insert active imagination here). 

Then the most amazing thing happened: Eddie improved in one step.

Go figure. Although I should have known. After all, it's not news to me -- I "talk" this stuff all the time.

Guess I don’t always "walk" it.

And that got me to thinking -- is that what I do in my daily life? Do I fret every minute to be sure everything is "just so," checking to see if all my ducks are lined up properly? Do I have a plan I focus on, or am I reacting to each moment, watching for things to go wrong?

Maybe I should just march forward and let all my ducks line up behind me while I lead the way. After all, not all of us can follow. Somebody has to get out in front. It's my life. It might as well be me.