Sunday, May 19, 2013

Do Nothing

In my schooling ride earlier this week and my clinic lesson today there was a common theme.   Do nothing.

Its something that all dressage students know and it should be the easiest thing in the world.  I mean how hard can it be to do NOTHING?

Its hard.

As I was working Golly I was trying to get more roundness using the outside rein.  He would give it for a bit and then push back and jut his jaw out.  I'd repeat the aid and he's comply for half a circle or so and then the jaw would jut out and I'd repeat the aid again.   This part was okay.

What I realized I was doing though was once he gave me the roundness and jaw I was asking for, I never let him just "be".   As soon as I got it, I moved onto more impulsion or more inside leg or a change of gait.  I wiggled the rein for just a bit MORE roundness.    How was he supposed to know that he had done a good job if I didn't let him revel in a job well done for a minute or two?  The reason he may have repeated jutting his jaw out could have been because I never gave him the reward of doing nothing.

What I should have done was give the aid and once he complied, then do nothing.  Now let me define what "doing nothing" means to me.  It doesn't mean that you stop riding altogether and sit up there like a sack of potatoes.   It does mean you continue to ride the same way you were before the aid but stop correcting or giving the strong aid.

Your horse deserves and needs this reward of nothing.  He doesn't have the ease of understanding our spoken language and doing nothing is how we tell him he has understood and succeeded in answering the aid.

Photo by Dorothy Anderson
For the most part, I have a problem with "doing nothing" in my general life as well.  I set goals (finish a proposal, hire an employee, clean my house, plant a garden), but rarely sit back and enjoy the "doing nothing" part of life.   What is the use of succeeding at the goal, if we don't take the time to enjoy and recognize the success?  But doing nothing is hard for me.  I finish that proposal and immediately start thinking of the next one I should be writing rather than taking some time to congratulate myself on the success of finishing it.  I need to give myself and Golly the joy of doing nothing.

Its hard sometimes too to congratulate ourselves on where we have come in our riding.  It gets frustrating that we are STILL struggling with the canter.  (Although we have made some good progress this month -- I'll fill you in on that later.)    It helps when I remember that at one time, the trot was difficult.  Our trot circles were more like triangles and there was a time when I was worried that we would trot out of the dressage ring because we couldn't make a decent turn.    Now we struggle with the same thing at canter -- circles are more like free form scribbles and making a turn feels a bit like turning a bulldozer at full speed.  BUT.... like the trot circles, practice makes perfect and we will get there.

We have to keep practicing the cantering so it gets better but also allow ourselves to feel good about what we have accomplished thus far -- and
those trot circles are GOOD!


  1. I have gotten very vocal with my "Good boy!"s. Wash definitely understands that as a sign of the right thing, even if I'm also not so good at doing nothing afterward.

  2. Yup... one other thing I forget to do all the time.... vocalize the "good boy". Golly understands it too and his ears are frequently flicking back to hear what I have to say about his performance. Thanks for the reminder!


I love to get feedback and hear about your journey-- please share!