I've spent a long time in the same rut. The english sport horse world is cool and challenging and diverse and allllllll my bad habits are formed around a couple decades of experience doing the same thing.
If say, I'm trying to bend around a turn and I'm not quite getting the response I want, I have this muscle memory that goes INDIRECT INSIDE REIN (terrible idea, 0/10 recommend) that makes the shape of the horse look the way I want it to look while the horse goes crooked and I continue my bad habit of relying on my hands.
I know enough to know how to pull it together and fake it on a ride. I don't even have to think about it.
Faking it does not make us better.
And see. I'm spending a lot of time in my life breaking out of ruts and changing behavior patterns. Learning to recognize dysfunction in it's expression and adapt my approach to do better.
|not related but this horse is cute AF|
For me, it starts with changing my surroundings--if I physically remove myself from a rut, I can be more aware of when my behavior is sliding back that direction. In life, that means taking myself out of situations that I know are problematic for me. On horseback, that means dropping the trappings I'm comfortable with and learning to ride a different way.
Next I set goals--what does success look like today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? If my long term goal is "canter bareback through the fields with flowers braided in her mane", what steps do I need to accomplish to arrive there? (Might start with "rideable canter idk").
As I move towards the goals, I start watching for patterns. Which behaviors move me closer to my goal and which move me farther away? Which behaviors that I exhibit make my life better and which are just learned dysfunctional coping mechanisms? If I ride 6 days a week, but every ride is exhausting and draining and non-productive, am I gaining anything? Am I better served by riding less often and keeping a fresher mind?
The thing that can drive me insane about western riding is the total lack of hundreds of years of theory and a "one true way" sort of approach that comes along with the more classical disciplines.
That means I have to feel it out as I go. Find my own way.
Lead, but softly.
Strength tempered with understanding.
Progress in balance.
There are things I can respect and take away from the sporthorse masters. There is plenty to learn from newer schools of thought.
At the end of the day, I need to find the things that work for me. I need to be the leader that my horse wants to follow.
There's no trail to glitz and satin and recognition. It's a step by step process of creating the horse I want to ride, the person I want to be, and the partnership I want to be party to.