Guest Blog post # 95: "Situation Critical" by Bill Woods


Does this sound like you? A woman came to my clinic with a fancy but difficult horse whom she had recently acquired. The horse was a schoolmaster and knew lots of tricks, but he had been ridden the last few years only in a double bridle. His poll was very high, his topline very short with the underneck muscles bulging. He wanted to run against the hand and be very heavy in the reins.

We spent the first several days making him be slow, asking him to accept the half halts, and for him to “wait for the leg.” What took place was a wondrous transformation as he relaxed, lowered, and began to seek the bit without bracing on it.

All the auditors were impressed with the difference. I was quite thrilled. Both days had been videoed by a friend, and at that second evening’s potluck we sat down to watch them.

The first words out of his rider’s mouth: “Oh, look how round my shoulders are!” Okay, they were a little round, but I had to laugh. Isn’t it so typical that we all, being our greatest critics, would focus in on a minor detail and blow right by the radical and beneficial changes which had been made?

I hardly know anyone who looks at their own riding and is pleased with themselves. And I think it’s laudatory to always wish to improve, but it’s also fine to keep your perspective and give yourself credit for those sorts of accomplishments—even if they are not complete. They are the moments we strive for. Enjoy them!

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