The last Wednesday we had together was another day of good horses and great students. I sensed an ever so slight new wind blowing through the arena. It was the wonderful wind of Mastery, along with it’s breezes. One breeze (the not so fun aspect of Mastery) is the breeze of the plateau of mediocrity. When a person sets out to improve their horsemanship skills, the first 4 to 7 sessions tend to bring rapid improvements and changes. This is what I have witnessed and you have experienced on our Wednesday lessons. A predictable process of the learning curve is the plateau. All of a sudden, the rapid improvements we have been accustomed to, and almost addicted to, start to wane. We seem to be stuck in continuous errors of performance. We start to get bored with the endless circles and bends and transitions. We wonder what the heck is happening. Then, in our inimitable pursuit to get back the highs of the first weeks, we look for where it went sour. We blame our horse, our age, our saddle, the bit, the footing, it’s Wednesday, the breed, the teacher……….. After all, we have all of the same conditions, but it’s not quite as much fun, and the teacher keeps harping on the same stuff: -bring your leg back -release the inside rein -get more forward energy -lift your hands -lower your hands …….You can fill in the rest. Well, the truth is that in your commitment to become a better rider, you have unknowingly signed up for the School of Mastery. Be it martial arts, painting, golf, tennis, eating less, eating better, or riding, your learning path to Mastery has built-in plateaus. This place is frustrating and perhaps tedious. You find that you doubt your ability to progress. You look for details to blame and ways to avoid the plateau. But, to continue to get better, you absolutely must not cut and run. NOW is the time when you guts it out, hold steady, keep trying – and expect huge breakthroughs forthcoming. But, there is an out. And everyone has the option to take it with no judgment. The out is to be content with where you and your horse are. I call it the Choice of Mediocrity. I have been there and opted for it. Just like sin, it felt good for a while. Then, it became more distasteful than the learning plateau. It became the Land of pulling harder, getting bigger spurs, a stronger bit, and a new instructor – All of the things that promised a better result – for a while. Then, when the plateau looms on your horizon again, you can start over – again. When I come to be with you all next week, I will be happy to talk more about this. I will answer questions and concerns to help you weather the Plateau. I know the place well. In my 50 years of learning my horsemanship skill, it has hit at times with a vengeance. Now, it has become a familiar experience that does not discourage me. It no longer discourages me because I KNOW the breakthroughs in my horsemanship that are sure to appear. Yet, as sure as the promise of hay costing more next year, the breakthroughs will only appear as long as I endure the unavoidable experience on the plateau. Often times we have to walk down a long, door-less hall way to get to the door that opens to the place we wanted to be. Mastery is a lifelong pursuit. Remember there can be no flowers unless there is rain; no sprout unless it is buried first. I believe it’s worth it !!
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