The first necessity of progress

One of the refrains that used to confuse me in lessons, before Parelli, was being told “That was perfect! Let’s go do something else.”

There I would be, panting but ecstatic, having finally achieved a good 20-meter circle or a small jump or a walk-canter transition, and instead of celebrating this masterpiece by doing it one or five or twenty-seven more times, my instructor would cheerfully come up with some other impossible task. And five minutes later, there I would be, fumbling and incompetent all over again, unable to bask in the glory of the previous accomplishment.

Now I understand that we were letting the horse know that he had performed his task beautifully. Once he put his will and effort and grace into the pattern, there was no need to ask him (or worse, to make him) do it again and again and again and again until it was no fun at all.

rocky shaking

I understand even more now why not to ask your horse to repeat his performance. While your motivation is likely something like Wow! That was amazing! I loved that! Let’s do it again!, for your horse, asking again is like saying the first time wasn’t good enough. That he put his best hoof forward and you weren’t satisfied.

On Friday, riding Rocky around the arena in the bareback pad, everything felt right, and I asked for a canter. I’ve never cantered bareback and have only cantered once — on a lesson horse, not on Rocky — in the past four years. Yet I’ve been feeling caged and discontent recently and needed to try something new, something unexpected. I didn’t even ask my witnesses to get out a camera to document the occasion. I just shifted my weight a little, asked for Rocky’s attention with my outside rein, and kissed.

He was soft and smooth and willing and engaged his hindquarters and we cantered the short side of the arena and then came down to a trot with me laughing and saying gooooood booooy in that low voice Rocky responds so well to. We stopped and received much congratulations and petting and love.

And I knew that the one thing I could do that would ruin everything for Rocky (and thus for me) was to ask for it again right away. I let him feel my delight and love, and made no further demands for the rest of our ride.


I spent the rest of the afternoon euphoric and telling everyone within earshot, but it wasn’t until bedtime that I remembered what I wrote on my About page when I first launched this blog.

This blog is my personal journal of a lifelong love of horses and my commitment to pursuing excellence in horsemanship every day. My goal is to have the best relationship it’s possible to have with my horse — and then improve that into the realm of impossibility. I also want to be able to canter bareback. ~ Horsegirl

Categories: Freestyle | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The first necessity of progress

  1. That’s really inspiring, Horsegirl. Another great post.

  2. Thanks! I haven’t ridden since that day so I can’t report back to say whether cantering bareback is one of our New Regular Things or not. LOL

  3. Tessa

    Yep, you’ll get more of those “want to be wild” moments and I strongly encourage you to take them. Also, PP Marc Rea says never to practice something for more than 10 minutes. You should get a try within that time period, and if not, you’re probably drilling your horse . . .


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