The Russian American choreographer George Balanchine once said:
“What are you waiting for? What are you saving for? Now is all there is.”
He was referring to his dancers and their tendency to hold back and not be generous with themselves. Having just left that career and had experience on ‘both sides of the studio’ dancer and choreographer, I understand and empathise with both perspectives.
It is a valuable attitude to have with horses.
I see people paralysed by perfection. The pursuit of it, the struggle for it, and fear of it. They wait for the perfect moment, the perfect idea, the best conditions to do something. And in the meantime, while they wait, nothing at all is actually accomplished in a real or lasting way. Or worse, in the vain pursuit of perfection they pervert their horses into confused, micro-managed puppets of their ego. I try to let the horse show me what they are good at and what they like, and work on those things. I know what it feels like to be a square peg being forced into a round hole and it really can break your spirit, or at least damage it. I wouldn’t dare do the same to a horse.
The problem is, as you wait for the perfect moment, you miss the moment of now.
The moment you have in front of you is all you really have. It might not be perfect, it might be damn ugly, difficult, or confusing. But the same dark moment, when looked at from a different perspective, could be a moment of opportunity.
Mistakes are not failures they are opportunities to learn. My attitude is to not make the same mistake more than once and let a single mistake be a learning moment, a barrier which helps me find direction to navigate the journey towards a vision for me and my horse.
Having said that, it could be said that I make mistakes every time I am with my horse, because every time I am with my horse I learn something, and he learns something too. Sometimes I am able to simply develop forwards on a path of learning without making a mistake, but when I do make a mistake- it happens once- and I learn from it.
I don’t care if Sanson is pretty, beautiful, or ideal in terms of his movement and behaviour, but I DO work towards those things very decisively. I do not wait for perfection to arrive or fall into my lap. Nothing in my life came easily to me, nothing in my life was pure luck. It was all down to resourcefulness, endurance, smart work, hard work, and a strong survival mechanism.
It’s like climbing a mountain, when you’re on a summit, legs burning, one foot stomping in front of the other- you rarely feel perfect, beautiful or ideal, but you are aware of why you must do this, to get to the view above. Eventually, you can learn to enjoy the climb even if it is not comfortable in the moment. You can be sweating and gasping for air, and have a smile on your face, because you know you’re doing something positive, something that will bring beauty and accomplishment into your life.
I believe horses can feel the same way, or at least learn to. Which is why I do not feel guilty for asking my horse to do something. Some days I ask nothing of him. And some day I ask a lot of him. Some horse people are guilty about setting expectations with their horses, or guilty for riding them. That a dichotomy I won’t participate in.
It’s fair to say that I have set a pretty high mountain for me to climb.
But I guess I just really like to climb.
Don’t wait. Don’t stall. Don’t live your journey with your horse ruled by inertia and indecision and useless virtue. Turn it around and be productive. Get something done. Just where you are- make a difference. Just where you are, right now, today.