Posts Tagged ‘practice’

Practice Makes Perfect

Sterling and I have been showing at regional and rated shows for about 3 1/2 years now. Pretty much all three years we have been showing over 2’6″ fences because I was basically starting at zero. I REALLY want to move up to bigger fences, but the only way to to do that is to ride better and to ride better I need to jump more. The primary barrier to that has been that the trainer I ride with at horse shows is located about four hours away from me and I really only see her at horse shows. To remedy that I started taking more lessons with a couple of trainers close to me who have similar approaches to riding and jumping to my horse show trainer. I still don’t get lessons as often as I should and now that fox hunting will be starting it will be even harder, but I’m committed to doing it both for me and for my horses. I want to bring Coco along correctly and not put her through the misery of my beginner mistakes that Sterling was such a saint about dealing with.

In that vein I had a lesson on Sterling last Saturday and it was SO FUN! The barn is a primarily jumper barn so the jumps are much wilder looking than hunter fences. Sterling has always been a brave jumper (he isn’t brave in any other aspect of his life, though. Remember trail rides?) so wasn’t phased by the crazy striped poles. He even jumped a liverpool with no hesitation! Most horses freak out the first time they jump a liverpool because they are moats of horse-eating scariness. Not Sterling. Other than me riding like a dufus he was perfect.

This is a liverpool jump. I don’t think we were jumping anywhere near this height, but you get an idea of what it looks like.

I made a ton of mistakes throughout the lesson, but he marched right along and WE JUMPED AROUND OUR FIRST EVER 3′ COURSE! This trainer had given us some lessons when I was first starting to jump Sterling and she commented about how much more forward he is now, so at least I’ve done something right along the way. We got our strides down every line and didn’t have any hard chips. A few close spots and a couple Tara-why-are-you-looking-down-and-not-forward moments, but I did better at keeping him forward and even used too much leg a couple times.

This isn’t from our lesson, but it is a pretty pic of Sterling at the horse show in Katy last weekend. Hopefully we can continue to get more lessons in and move up to bigger fences at the shows sooner rather than later. He’s such a good boy!

Photo by Jerry Mohme. It looks like we are in a forest, but we aren’t.

Conscious Incompetence

I was perusing Facebook recently and came upon a post with a link to an article titled How to Embrace “Incompetence”. Sometimes one just feels compelled to read something and so I did. I didn’t read the article word-for-word, but I did skim the highlights and what I read really hit home. The article is about Noel Burch’s philosophy of learning which contains four stages;

• Unconscious Incompetence

• Conscious Incompetence

• Conscious Competence

• Unconscious Competence

In case you are wondering, I’m at stage 2; Conscious Incompetence. This means, in a nutshell, I know what I’m supposed to do but just can’t seem to get it done.  At least not all of the time. Often when I talk to people and they ask how I did at a horse show I have some sort of snarky response about how great Sterling was, but his rider not-so-much. People who have known me a long time, and especially horsey friends will feel the need to reassure me that I’m a great rider. The thing is, I may be a great rider, but I still don’t really know what I’m doing when cantering around a hunter course! There are SO many pieces to put together and all of my riding muscle memory is from riding western or riding English, but in western style.


One of the biggest differences between western in English riding is how the rider uses their legs. In western riding the rider will give an order with the leg and then leave it alone. In English riding there is constant contact and support with the leg with occasional stronger cues. My western trained legs KNOW they shouldn’t just be hanging there, but they still seem to be incompetent to get a move on and do what I want them to do all the time. Hence the competent incompetence.

Moving from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence requires lots and lots of practice doing things correctly. I’m right in the middle of four horse shows in a row over five weekends and this is giving us quite a lot of opportunity for practice, practice, practice. The great news is that my horse is awesome. Almost no matter how things go in the warmup, or lack thereof, he’s always good in the ring. This gives me the good fortune of getting to practice creating new muscle memory and learning from my mistakes generally without having to worry about my horse spooking at something or refusing jumps. He’s also settling in much better at each show. Eating all his meals and drinking his water. Things Jaguar would never in a million years have NOT done! My trainer lives five hours away so I really only see her at horse shows. This means we are learning on the “stage”, but it has the added benefit of being at a horse show. You can never ever duplicate the energy of a horse show at home.


Hopefully by the last weekend I will have, at least in part, moved to some level of competence and be rewarded with that elusive blue ribbon.