Comfort Zones

You know what’s hard? Harder than I could have imagined? Posting videos of riding lessons on the world wide web. It’s terrifying! It is a collection of moments of you looking less-than-ideal during a time when weaknesses are highlighted so you can fix them.

In the world of social media it is really easy to present a life that seems perfect all the time, and I think that we can be surprised to see something less. When I decided to write a blog, I made a promise to myself that it would talk about the good, the bad and the ugly; I would wear my horse-loving heart on my sleeve. A hope I have for this blog is that it can help you learn + giggle sometimes. How can I expect anyone to learn, including myself, if I only shared the good? Putting the less-than-perfect on view for the whole world isn’t easy though, and can be a step out of the comfort zone.

This comfort zone has been talked about a few times here in relation to the science of expertise. Anders Ericsson has explored the topic extensively, and writes about his findings in his book, Peak. I have not had the chance to read it, but one of the ideas presented is how you learn better by failure than by success. It is a fine line of being pushed out of your comfort zone and being pushed over the edge. He has found that by failing, you learn at a much faster and more effective rate than if you never failed; being uncomfortable will bring you more rewards than being comfortable. Maybe you’ll be uncomfortable watching the WP and I fail to pick up the right lead during our canter-walk transitions and learn something…

In the bit of the lesson that I included we show a trot set (look how fancy he is!) and then our work on the Canter-Walk transitions. Kelso can get pretty jazzed during these as he knows what I want and doesn’t always want to wait. We are still working on consistent submission during these, but that is already improving. Additionally, the right lead is much harder for him to pick up and he is really good at talking me out of it. You can hear Paul tell me to “rock him back” before I make the walk transition; this allows him to be collected and balanced to avoid becoming a puddle in the walk transition. It is not simply slowing him down, as I need to bring his forehand up. I continue to work on my seat, and push towards the pommel with each stride. I am not following his movement; I am leading it.

We worked on shoulder-ins during our lesson as well which are not shown. I asked about where my weight must be during the shoulder-ins and while it is on my inside seat bone, I should not lean to put it there. Instead, by putting my inside leg slightly behind the girth and pushing Kelso from the inside leg to the outside rein, my pelvis will slightly tip causing it to feel heavier on the inside. When you’re looking at the upper body you shouldn’t know what you’re doing in the lower body, so don’t tip.

At the conclusion of the lesson, I inquired as to when Kelso and I could start working on one tempis as we have come so far already (Kidding.) Paul did explain that after submission, we start working on more impulsion, but that there must always be balance. Impulsion can be approached by doing lengthening and collecting, and is the weightlifting of the ride. The yoga or stretching portion is found in the lateral movements, and needs to be appropriately applied for your horse to become as symmetrical as possible.

I hope you enjoy the short clip of the lesson! I would love to say the journey with Kelso has been calm, easy and ethereal at every moment, but even as I type that I can hear the WP giggling in his stall. I hope that we can help you feel like you aren’t alone the next time you do something imperfectly. As long as you’re learning and having fun, it’s all worth it.

Off to canter-walk out of the comfort zone and fail some more!

Erin and Kelso



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