Step by step

I was reminded yet again about breaking down difficult challenges into smaller pieces. I know this, but constantly seem to forget it and just become overwhelmed. Yet this single piece of advice is constantly reflecting through my life. In work, at home, in relationships, in anything that requires training – horses, dogs, children, husbands…whatever the issue is, if you break it down it will become manageable.

Your boss gives you some seemingly mammoth task (bosses love doing this!), break it down into small pieces, tackle it one piece at a time. You need to teach your child to tidy their room, break it down, first put away the books, and then the clothes, suddenly each job becomes doable, and our stress is swept away.

You wouldn’t expect your horse to be able to a half-pass unless you had broken down the exercise into steps? So why do we expect ourselves to be able to do things without breaking it down into steps? In order to teach the half-pass we first need a balanced trot or canter, we need a good leg yield, a good shoulders-in and quarters-in, only once we can move all the legs of the horse, can we add all the pieces together and ask for a leg yield.

Don’t do the same with yourself, don’t ask for a leg yield without having learnt the component parts. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Set yourself up to succeed! If you spend time on the building blocks the rest will follow. If you are finding something difficult stop and think, can I leg yield before I half-pass, can I walk before I run? We wouldn’t do it our horses, so don’t do it to ourselves. Give yourself the optimum conditions to succeed, don’t send yourself off to do a medium dressage test when you are working at novice level at home. Be kind to yourself, as you would to others…

Back to basics…

Starting again, often means going back to basics. You might groan internally at the thought of going back to simply practicing walk to trot transitions, but those basics are the building blocks for everything that follows after. If you can’t ride a nice, smooth, responsive walk to trot transition how will you be able to ride a good trot to canter transition? If you can’t ride a good square halt, will you be able to independently move your horses’ legs in lateral work?

If you have started your horse again, you might feel as though you have slithered all the way down the snakes to the very beginning of the game, but those basics are imperative. Time spent on the basics, make the advanced work so much easier. Anything we build up from houses to horses rely on good foundations.

This time we have all experienced, this period of retreat has enabled many of us to go back to basics. It has allowed us the time to start over, to remember things we had forgotten about. Though it may have been uncomfortable, and unpleasant for some people, for others it has given them the time to reconnect, to go back to basics.

Sometimes we over-complicate our lives by forgetting about the basics, and we can do the same with our horses. For both of us, the basics are important. After all there is no use learning Mandarin, if you have forgotten how to kind. It is fantastic is your horse can do a flying change, but it is really of no use, if you can’t do a good canter transition in the first place.

Tricks are impressive, we all get blown away by a flashy trot or a person who can speak 10 languages. But in reality the transition that gets one into the flashy trot is more important than the flashiness. And speaking 10 languages is of no use if you can’t be kind in any of them…

Little by little…

…one walks far. I love this Peruvian proverb, it seems so apt for the modern day and everything that we do. I have seen it on a necklace, that’s on the wish list!

It fits so perfectly with everything. Want to compete your horse in a dressage test when it won’t even trot?  Approach it one step at a time, rather than sitting down and giving up. Work on the walk, practice your trot transition. Aim for one nice trot stride, come back to walk and then praise. Gradually that one nice trot stride will become a whole long side, gradually you will be able to maintain a whole circuit. In time, you will be able to add in a canter transition and repeat the whole exercise. Next you simply take your horse somewhere else and practice doing it in a different environment. And, then you are ready to compete.

Everything is possible. Your filthy, muddy, hairy pony in the field can be transformed into a gleaming show pony. Your terrible puppy that chews and runs round you can be transformed into an obedient well-trained dog. Your incredibly long list of things to do, can be broken down into small parts, which you can tick off.

Remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Every rider you admire or look up to had to learn rising trot, no-one was born knowing how to make a horse Piaffe. You can do anything that you want to do, you can learn to be good at anything. Everything simply requires the building blocks of learning. If you try and make your hairy pony do a half-pass it probably won’t, but if you teach it to leg yield, and then a few steps of shoulder-in and then build onto that some quarters-in, suddenly a few steps of half-pass are going to be there, and before you know it, you will be half-passing happily from one side of the school and back again.