The other day I was writing about reinforcement and that by doing nothing to get in the way of a behavior is the same as rewarding it. Then, while riding yesterday and today I realized that I was letting my mare, Danke, get out of balance and I was doing absolutely nothing about it! So, guess what? Since I allowed this to continue, of course, little by little the problem was getting bigger and bigger. Finally, I gave myself a ‘whack upside the head’ and got with my own program!
In a kind of out of body experience I started to realize that I was letting this falling out of balance thing happen. I could feel it was happening and then I had to hustle to put it back together. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity that I wasn’t being anywhere NEAR particular enough about this matter. What had I been thinking? Who knows. Obviously, my attention had been mis-directed. Unfortunately, now that I’d let it happen numerous times (I’d reinforced the behavior through my own in-action) I had no choice now than to be dramatic to make a point. Sorry, Danke, but it just doesn’t need to be like this and it was time for me to do something about it!
So, I decided that if I felt even the tiniest of possibilities that the balance was going out of whack, I would put in a full halt– to say (in effect) STAY with me. Turns out that was after about half a stride. Hummm. Well, no wonder. I repeated this a few times. Pretty soon, I just had to think, ‘stay with me’ and ‘voila’ –carriage, lightness, softness were available instantly. Duh. 😉
Now, that was yesterday. Today, being a fairly quick study, I decided to be particular about everything right from the git-go. Go when I say “go”, Stop when I say, “stop” and Turn when I say, “turn” and when all was well, go with it. Of course, I had a great ride!
Over and over again I’m reminded that riding well is about attention to detail. Not just today or this instant but every single stride of every single ride. That can seem like a daunting responsibility and I suppose it is. But, if you want to ride well, and I do, then you accept the responsibility. When Danke came to me this balance issue manifested in much more obvious problems–like being unable to canter left at all. Now that most of the time she is lovely to ride this balance thing was more insidious. Things just felt…icky. Now, I see it was my own danged fault. Of course it is, seeing as that’s what I’m always saying to my students!
How small a particle can you become aware of and be particular about it?