Sitting here watching my daughter being coached in archery reminds me of the importance of repetition. Not mindless going through the motions but trying to be the same every time; not worrying about where the arrows go but how you get them there. Later, when the technique is good, the sharp end accuracy will be easier to improve. Gaining control of you limbs without getting tight and fixed, keeping your breathing steady and releasing the string in exactly the same way every time.
I count myself very lucky to teach people who want to learn and, more importantly, are prepared to take time. Many years ago I remember students ringing for a lesson to practice an up coming test (usually the week before a competition) and the pain of having to explain that their centre line entry needed more work before we could start on their shoulder in! These days most of my students aren’t really competitive (aside from Interdressage) so the focus isn’t just on competition; honing a skill is a great endeavour, supporting that endeavour is such a pleasure for me.
I have to come clean here and admit that I too have pushed too far, too hard and above my skill base. I finally kicked back against the trainer who encouraged me and found someone who could help me hone what skills I had; sadly they were thin on the ground and it took patience to get back to where I thought I was!
The thing with riding is that the more you learn the harder it is to accept your lack of skill and the only course of action is to improve. This is the endeavour of all horsemen and women – to be the best we can for our horses. To discover true balance and let the horse, unhindered my our lack of skill, try to maintain his. To begin this we have to let go (mentally and physically), trust and not be afraid to do nothing. So often as riders it isn’t what we do but what we don’t do that reaps rewards. Learning to control our own body comes before learning to control the horse. Maintaining our balance before trying to change theirs is essential. Those moments where it all feels natural and you are one with your horse are worth working for and are the horseman’s equivalent of shooting a gold!