I've spent the last few days on vacation and I don't totally know what to do with myself. I haven't been on a horse since Monday. (Not that long, true...)
However! I've been having some amazing conversations with Ivan from Running In Systems in Portland.
I've gleaned a lot of insight from him and I'm looking forward to processing it more thoroughly, but he shared this image with me this morning while we were discussing passion and boredom.
All of you are deeply passionate about horses; you love the way they smell and the shape of their bodies, the ways in which they move, their goofy mannerisms, the challenges they face us with and the heights to which we can rise with them. And at times, all of you have faced the prospect of not wanting to go to the barn. Or a wave of exhaustion when faced with mounting up.
I'm extrapolating from my experiences, but conversations with many riders lead me to believe that this is a fairly universal experience.
Ivan says (this is deeply paraphrased, so do forgive me), "when you get good enough at playing piano, eventually you will get on stage and no longer be excited to play. The challenge is gone. But if you zoom in on any surface, no matter how smooth, you will see a mess. You will see the roughness and the patches and the true shape of the surface."
When we get on and think we've accomplished all our most recent goals, if we upgrade our "magnifying glass" so to speak and focus in on the next layer of smoothness, we will find an infinite challenge and fascination.
I firmly believe it can go the other way, that we can see so many things we need to fix that we feel overwhelmed and lose the delight in our rides the other way. In this case, we need to swap our magnifying glass out for one less powerful in order to appreciate the progress we have made.
How do we 'upgrade our magnifying glass'? We can develop more self-awareness, deepen our proprioception, study movement, get an instructor to give us new exercises, we can watch our horse move and really analyze the asymmetries and go through the mental acrobatics of asking ourselves how we can help the horse solve these issues. We can watch videos of ourselves riding and select one or two (just one or two!) things we want to focus on in our next ride and deeply think about how it changes our feel.
And how do we 'downgrade our magnifying glass'? We appreciate the journey, we watch old videos, we take some moments to be grateful for what we've seen and what we've smoothed out.
Both of these are important mental skills.
Do you have the right magnifying glass right now? What would it take for you and your horse to reach a level where you need the next level of magnifying glass?