Moving past Perfect…

Lynn and Luna enjoy a ride by the Lake

I could write about….no, that’s stupid. Oh, I could explain how……no, everybody knows that already. Oh, I know, I could write…, that idea sucks. That has been my inner dialogue every time I sit down to blog for the past six months. I wish I could blame my absence on the weather or my busy schedule, but why lie? I have fallen victim to the same enemy of progress that I try to discourage my clients from entertaining, perfectionism.

Don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows I’m far from perfect! When it comes to writing, whether it’s a college paper or my little blog I become paralyzed with fear that my work will not measure up. I see this same self-destructive behavior become problematic in many of my client’s riding. For fear of not doing an exercise properly the first time, they never attempt it at all.

En route to lessons this same self-doubt creeps up on me if I let it. What if I can’t live up to my client’s expectations? What if my instruction falls flat or fails to inspire? Perhaps somebody else could explain things more creatively or clearly. This almost always alleviates itself as soon as the lesson begins and the dialogue between instructor, horse and rider begins to flow, The details work themselves out and it becomes clear that it is not the over complicated, esoteric explanations or the grandiosity of the upper level movements that make a good lesson. It’s the quiet, subtle exchanges that occur only between the rider and the horse that matter.

As frequently happens when self-doubt becomes overwhelming to me my students unknowingly become my teachers. Last week while driving to teach a dedicated adult amateur rider I found myself fretting about what I would present as a lesson. We have been chipping away at the lateral exercises and because she is so dedicated to her riding and her horse I desperately wanted to help her feel confident and confirmed in her lateral work, exercises that are complex in nature and require a patient communication between the horse and rider.

I arrived at the barn after spending the drive over mentally preparing for my lesson with Lynn. I was determined to dazzle her with lofty explanations of the communication needed for her to properly execute jaw dropping shoulder-in and breathtaking renvers. My perfectionism was in overdrive and my anxiety about presenting the perfect lesson was building. When I determinedly walked into the barn I noticed that Lynn was wearing a radiant smile. She explained that for the first time ever her sometimes aloof mare, Luna, had cantered up to greet her in the pasture. Her excitement from that one interaction from her horse was nearly palpable. My anxieties melted away as I realized that riding, like life, is defined by the small things. Sure, great lateral work is nice to have but no lofty speech or complicated footwork can offer the undefinable joy experienced during the quiet moments understood only between the horse and rider.

With luck my writing self can learn something from my riding self. Tell the perfectionism to back off and just keep writing. Every ride isn’t perfect and every blog post won’t be awe-inspiring, but hopefully, if I keep moving towards the big things the small things will make it all worthwhile.

19 thoughts on “Moving past Perfect…

  1. Suzanne,
    You have an amazing ability to bring optimism to all those you ride with. I had just come off an injury and you watched me ride. Your comment to me ” well you must be okay, because you are cantering around out there”. I was physically okay, but your comment made me mentally okay.
    Thank you,

  2. Writers block or riders block seem to be similar animals. Dressage may be the only sport where perfetion is impossible but the ultimate goal. In the rest of the world a 65% is a D lol. If everyone were perfect the world would be such a boring place!

    1. So true!! Thanks for being my blog subject!! It seems with dressage the more you try to force something to happen the further away it gets- my writing seems to follow suit! Keep the inspiration coming Lynn!!! You’re doing great! Recognized show in 2011 or Bust!!

  3. Suzanne, it’s always amazing to me that those who inspire us the most usually have the humblest opinions of their own knowledge and expertise. Your ability to instruct us to achieve that “feeling” we thought we’d never feel and inspire us to do things in lessons that we thought we’d never be able to do and (no matter how hard we try) find difficult to replicate when you’re not there, and still always leave us yearning for our next lesson is about as perfect a lesson and instructor as one can ask for!
    Bethie & Beni πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Bethie! I really enjoy teaching and as enthusiastic as you are about riding and learning I have to stay awake!! It is no wonder my students frequently turn out to be some of my best friends! πŸ™‚

  4. I used to teach college biology. My students had the same problem, they never wanted to make a mistake, which led to them never even trying to solve a problem. I used to tell them “You’ll never learn anything if you never screw up.” The lessons that stick with you are always the ones where you made an absolute fool of yourself and then fixed it.

    So, go forth and screw up, because I really enjoy reading your posts! πŸ˜‰

  5. Welcome back!
    I’m on the same track. After a lesson during which (as a student) I stressed about the new stuff I learned, and wondered out loud if I could keep the order of aids straight. I went into the middle and asked my instructor “What’s my homework practice for the week?”
    Her response helped me so much, for years: “Do it badly”.
    Must be the whole New Year’s and resolution thing. I just did a (bad) post on it. Bad is the new Good.

    1. Thanks!! I just read your post! I love “bad is the new good”! I was thrilled to see your blog promoted by the Chronicle on Facebook! Keep on posting- I am envious of your never-ending creativity!!! Good to talk to you again!!

  6. Suz, as you would tell me “you’re a lamo!” Not to be confused with similar acronyms. You, my friend are a wonderful writer and rider. Keep blogging we all need some inspiration!

  7. OK, Suzanne, so this was posted in January, and the heading says “be the first to like this post” It is now August. I may be the last to “like” it. But I DO, in fact, like it!

    As for “perfectionism?” Making a perfect ride could be compared to making a perfect drawing, or building a perfect saddle, writing a perfect song, or playing a tune on a mandolin perfectly. (All of which I have spent years learning to do)

    I have only this to say:

    EXCELLENCE is is something to be striven for. “Perfection” is but a monster.


    Jean Abernethy

    1. Plenty to say, too much in fact, just too busy teaching to write it down. I welcome all comments though, and if you have any topics you want me to consider let me know. Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you found it entertaining!! πŸ™‚

    2. Lol- just noticed your email address and it looks familiar JA. I saw the initials and wondered if I could be so lucky. Happy to have a response from you- positive or negative, not sure which that was. I hope you continue to read and participate (unless you scorch me). I think of you often and will always be grateful to you for making me feel like things are possible.

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