I always think fitness is a little like snakes and ladders. Intermittently I run quite a lot and between times I eat biscuits. Life is all about balance. Running is quite straightforward in terms of building fitness. Run for 20 mins, then gradually increase your time. The snakes come out with illness, injury or life getting in the way.
Horses can feel the same. We can feel like we are getting somewhere, and then we have a setback, maybe we have to work late all week, and suddenly the next week it feels like you have slithered all the way back to the tail of the snake. In the same way, if I don’t run for a few weeks, too much work, had a cold, suddenly I feel terribly unfit and feel like I too have slithered down the snake.
However, the light in all of this is the ladder of repetition. Because I have previously been able to run, it doesn’t take that long to return to fitness. Because you have worked hard with your horse, the week off will be quickly overcome, as you climb up the ladder.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still disheartening. But the initial work never goes to waste. When I first started running I couldn’t run for a bus. (Could ride horses, muck out, etc all day) The first time I got myself to running 3 miles it was a tremendous effort. Now it never takes that long to get back there. In the same way, the initial work teaching a good trot canter transition may have been an effort, but even after a break re-teaching it is never as hard.
Setbacks may feel disheartening, the snakes may frustrate us, but never forget about the ladders of repetition. Those few weeks off will be quickly overcome. So don’t fret if life gets in the way, you will soon be moving up the board again.