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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Groom Where You're Planted

I sometimes marvel at the envy I experience within my thoughts on a daily basis. I try my best to hide it, contain it, and keep it to a minimum, but it always creeps back in. On days when I'm really in the pity-party mood I like to think I'm alone in my horrible thoughts and jealous inner-longings.  The better part of me knows though that being human comes with many such challenges.  Jealousy (and its counterpart, hypocrisy) are ones that I'd wager are making a run for the gold in the category of most destruction to the developed world today.  You all know what I'm talking about.  "Keeping up with the Jones'" as its been coined. And let me tell you, if you were to find a huge group of Jones' and Jones-wannabes together, sharing an expensive, emotional and time-consuming hobby, well, you'd have found the world of horse-showing. Sometimes it seems that there is no ceiling to the fancy horses, the blingy outfits, the unbelievable rigs (with gorgeous living quarters ... that I would have to live in as I could no longer afford my house if I should purchase such an outrageous dream-machine).  How can any of us "little guys" compete?  Do hard work, hours spent, miles covered, solid training and preparation  count anymore if you are constantly being "outdone" by the guys next door?  Well, that all depends on your attitude I think.

Brendan's Irish-Catholic grandmother used to have this old sign hanging in her house (I think it was one of those needlepoint ones) that said "Bloom where you're planted."  Always seemed a little silly to me.  I mean what choice do you have if you're a weed growing out on a bare, dry prairie other than to just grow the tallest and strongest your little roots can make you.  Ay, but there it is. The saying isn't "Just barely make it where you're planted" or "Grow as tall and strong as you can where you're planted but complain about yourself in comparison to all the other beautiful foliage around".  No, it says BLOOM.  We generally think of blooming as the time when a plant is flowering.  This in itself is significant because we are called not only to grow, but to flower, right where we are.  Not where our neighbor is, not where our family is (and not on the horse that they have either!). We are called to develop our own deep, strong roots and fruitful branches, where we are, with what we are given.  There is an even deeper meaning I think though, when we look at the second part of the Oxford dictionary's definition of bloom: "the state or period of greatest beauty, freshness, or vigor".

How many of us believe that if we only had a fancier horse, a more prestigious horse trainer (is it wrong to admit that I sometimes feel this, even as the horse trainer?), or some new gizmo, gadget or outfit?

I am constantly telling my clients (and myself) that we have to have a truck load of perspective in this industry, and we have to really examine our own personal goals and achievements when assessing our success (see last month's blog, "In It to Win It"). 

Humor me a bit while I get a little philosophical for a minute.  I truly believe that anyone who is graced by the presence of a horse, has been introduced to this "world" for a reason.  Riding (and competing) with horses is truly like no other sport.  There is an inexplicable synergy found in the combination between horse and human.  Two animals, fashioned completely differently, one with two legs, a vertical carriage, wrought with emotion and both helped and hindered by advanced, conscious thought, and another with four legs, horizontal carriage, and ruled by instinct and deep biological impulses, both working together in a harmony that is fearfully beautiful.  Even if you aren't religious it is hard not to find some connection with something deeper when you walk astride a horse.  And regardless of what turns of fate brought us into this arena, so to speak, we all have to start somewhere.   Some start off with the best of the best.  Expensive horses, elite instruction, flawless training.  Some of us figured out how to stay on by playing "capture the flag" out in some back field on naughty little horses that we more or less trained by our 12-year-old selves. 

How truly wonderful it is though, when you study the profiles of those in the winners circle (both amateurs and professionals alike) that you find individuals fitting both of the profiles above, and all through the spectrum in between?

I believe it lies in the title of this blog (which I personally felt was extremely witty).  Instead of sitting around (and come on, if you're like me, most likely on Facebook) groaning over all of the successes and fancy new acquisitions of those around you, you need to get to work on just creating your own "blooms". 

I recently had one of these experiences myself (confession time ...).  This year there were several riders and horses at US Nationals who I know fairly well, and most of them had some amazing successes.  They have all worked so hard for and totally deserve it.  That, and it is absolutely awesome for the industry in our area that our Canadian contingent gave such a great showing.  I must admit though there was a moment (it was fleeting as I kicked myself in the butt quickly for it) that I felt envy.  For no justifiable reason, I felt it was "unfair" that they should have all of that success.  Why? I mean, they worked for it.  They paid for it.  What felt so unfair about it?  Plain and simple ... it wasn't mine.  

And in this moment I realized more fully than ever before that there will always be others I can compare to... those greater and lesser than myself.  In that moment though, I have to choose to focus on what I can do, not what I cannot. 

As most of you know, we have embarked this last year on a great new leg of our adventure ... our own place! The show horses all came home in June, the barn's a hoppin' and things are really and truly going great.  We don't have an indoor arena yet, and that can be challenging at times, but I'm just determined to "groom where we're planted" and try to make the best of it.  So, we get creative.  Sometimes weather causes cancellations. Sometimes we have to adapt our plans.  On days when I cant go full force in the arena, we do ground driving around the yard, stall-bitting and ground manner training (I even have a couple who can do some tricks now!!).  I spend a lot of time reading and brushing up on theory and technicalities.  We are also in the process of setting up arrangements to haul-in to some local arenas to ride when the real winter arrives!

I am ever-so-tempted some days to sit back and cry about what we don't have here (and no one gets to ask my husband how often I succumb to this temptation), but I hope at the end of the day I'll look back and think, "Wow, we really were able to make something awesome happen, despite facing some challenges".  It's easy to get spoiled with all the amenities our modern facilities offer.  And its easy to think that we need all of these things in order to create anything worthwhile.  Along the way though, I've learned that horses are hardy, and people are committed.  We just have to keep our spirits up about the whole thing.  And you know what,  in my estimation, our little band of horses are actually looking better than ever.  The naughty ones seem a little less naughty, the fat ones have slimmed down, and the skinny ones are getting pleasantly plump.  Everyone's morale seems great and we really have a wonderful little family here.  We're growing, we're learning, and we're blooming.  Right where we are.  No fancy trimmings (well maybe not yet) but man do we appreciate every little victory!

So my winter challenge for everyone is this ... The next time you visit your friend's new multi-million dollar facility with plush stall mats, heated floors and perfectly groomed and temp-controlled arena, or the next time you cruise Facebook and see how "so-and-so" just acquired an inheritance and picked up her five-time national champion that she is sooooo in love with, swallow that envy down hard. Put on a smile and be happy for them.  But don't dwell too long.  Pull up your socks, put on your muck boots, go down to the barn and then groom (and bloom) with a new vigor.  Life has a way of rewarding hard work and persistence, and the character you'll develop along the way will serve you well in being able to truly enjoy the successes you achieve, rather than driving you to look to the next, bigger, fancier thrill.  Do your best, and work hard, wherever you are, with whatever you have to work with.  Seek good counsel, and make changes when you can.  You will bloom no doubt, and when you do, the fruits of your labor will be so much more beautiful than the store-bought successes you once longed to afford. 

Happy Grooming!!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

In It To Win It

They say that if you never experience losing, winning just isn't as significant.  You know ... that winning is somehow made more glorious and satisfying if you've had to work for it, earn it, and experience some hard knocks along the way.  I would tend to agree.

That said, losing still sucks. I am a competitive person (obviously, or I would have taken up equine philosophy rather than one of the most competitive and subjective areas of the industry). I mean don't get me wrong, I have personal goals for myself and all of my clients that do not involve earning a ribbon in the show ring. At the end of the day though, it's going to be tough to keep folks interested if they never, ever come home with any prize. 

How then, in a world of competition that is ever-changing and one that can be entirely subjective and political (aside from the odd timed/scored event) do we navigate and find satisfaction when prizes are never guaranteed? 

Well, in my own mind I like to narrow it down to a few principles that help me stay grounded in my goals and aspirations and my "expectation management".

Here they are:

1) Be honest with yourself.

Take a good hard look at where you are at, the amount of time, energy and money you have put into it, and what it realistically takes to make it (in whatever discipline you are riding in).  If you have been doing the same thing, with the same horse for many years and achieving the same results, you may want to try changing it up a bit (unless of course the results are "always winning", which is highly unlikely in this ever-changing sport).  Try a new approach, get some new help, change your farrier, change your discipline ... whatever you do, don't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.  Einstein called this the definition of insanity.

That said, if you've only been doing something for a couple months, and you haven't mastered it yet, or you've been progressing (but maybe not as fast as you'd like) or maybe its not as easy as you anticipated, it may just mean a little more elbow grease and "miles" so to speak.  Regardless, getting an outside opinion (other than your spouse, who knows nothing about horses, or your lifelong riding buddy who supports you no matter what you do) may be in order. 

Either way, take a step back.  Look at your self.  Look at your horse. Often we go through stages where one party improves while the other plateaus or hits a wall.  The horse starts getting fit or more technical and the rider feels "left behind".  Or the rider makes great improvement but the horse's condition and fitness takes longer to catch up.  You have to be able to look at your situation and reflect on what's going on ... as unemotionally and analytically as you can!

2) Be honest with others.

Don't talk yourself up or talk up your goals and aspirations because you feel "peer-pressured" to.  At the same time, don't beat yourself up either.  When discussing your horse goals, talk about what you would like to do and maybe potential time-lines but don't get yourself backed into a corner by putting out unrealistic goals or expectations (especially if you are a people-pleaser and will later regret over-stating your abilities).  Also, make sure you don't play the martyr either, downplaying or negatively mulling over your struggles. 

Tell people your story.  Tell them exactly where your head is at.  Let them in on what excites you and what terrifies you and be open to them doing the same.  Share with your fellow horse folk honestly and compassionately and you will find that others open up, let down their own (sometimes defensive and over-competitive) guard and are far more likely to support you and your goals.

3) Be open to advice, correction and education...

FROM EVERYONE! You don't have to take it or use it, but at least consider it.  There have been many times someone has offered me unsolicited advice (about everything from farrier, to feeding, to training, to grooming, to trailering techniques) and many times my first response is defensiveness.  It can make a person feel inadequate or criticized.  After some consideration though, you can occasionally find a little gem in that pile of rubble and it could serve you very well.  Accept "help" graciously and remember, if they didn't know you, care about you, or have any investment in you at all, they would ignore you! 

Do consider all advice carefully though, and remember, no one person knows everything.  As hard as it is sometimes to take advice, it is equally as easy to turn someone into an idol and take everything they say as gospel (if you are my client and reading this, please disregard).  All jokes aside though, everyone shares, advises and teaches from their own experiences, and you need to take it all in with a grain of salt. Get educated, use good discretion, do your homework.  Find people with good reputations, whose expertise and services mesh well with your level of experience, goals and personality.  It is imperative that when you are working with someone in a training or lesson situation, that for the time you are with them you trust them and their instruction.  If not you will most certainly find things tense and uncomfortable in no time. 

4) Keep perspective.

As I said earlier, do your homework.  Get to know the industry, discipline and competition you will be competing with.  I often prep my riders by telling them things like, "You are going to find yourself in a very competitive class with say 12 horses, and 3 of them may have far more experience, more advanced/developed horses and more skill development than you (this may be a good time remember #1 above).  If you come in 4th, well in my mind, that's a FIRST!!" If you have no idea who sits beside you in the line up and have no context within which to place yourself in that class, you may pout your way out of that class feeling that you have no idea why you didn't win it and resenting your ride, your competition, your horse and certainly your trainer.  In addition, you'll start to make up excuses for why didn't come out with the roses, and lose your ability to constructively reflect on any goals you may have achieved in that class. This isn't really fair to anyone, especially you!

Also, as a side note on getting perspective, I tell my riders (jokingly, but with some underlying seriousness) that they all need to have a couple of very close, non-horsey friends.  These are the people who, when you go on a rant about how you cannot believe that Peggy Sue brought her horse 3 strides to close to the behind of your horse and he swapped his lead and it was just SOOOOO embarrassing and you just might die, look at you like you are crazy.  And you are.  We horse folk are "crazy about" what we do, and I am totally guilty of this.  We get so intensely focused and narrowed in on our little riding bubble, we forget that sometimes its just one class.  Not really the end of the world.  Really, "first world problems" in every sense of the phrase. 

I mean, at the end of the day, there are probably hundreds of thousands of folks, just in North America who would give an arm to ride or own a horse, let alone do what we do.  Sometimes we feel we had a crappy ride, and we squeak by with a ribbon. Sometimes the best ride we've ever had gets us the gate.  Especially for what our team does, its a subjective game.  Do your best, train your hardest and get good help.  But ultimately ... Some days they like you.  Some days they don't.  Spend enough time around the place and you'll  realize this is true for EVERYONE at EVERY LEVEL. 

As a last and final wrap-up point I have to mention having non-prize-related goals.  Although saying things like "some day I'd love to win a Regional or National Championship" can be totally fantastic motivation for working and training hard, never put this kind of pressure on one class.  You may have a feeling in the back of your mind (based on your very realistic, honest and well-rounded perspective) that you are a contender in a particular class, but you should STILL have other, non-ribbon goals.  Things such as pace, engagement, leads, correctness, transitions, balance, ring management and so-on provide great fodder for these goals.  Work with your instructor or trainer and pick one or two of these performance-related goals for every class, even if you think you have it in the bag.  It will give you something to celebrate and discuss, regardless of whether you win or get dead last.

And always remember one of my favorite quotes ... "I never lose.  I either win or I learn."

Happy horse-showing!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Living the Dream

So I was just thinking this morning about how great God has been to me. I am able to do (more or less!) most of what it takes to keep this farm running and there's some great confidence and convenience in that.  From running tractors, trucks and trailers to fixing fences I am no different than generations of rural women before me.  I do what has to be done.  And don't get me wrong, I couldn't do it without my amazing husband and family and friends. I am not a feminist.  I dont particularly love the feminist movement. But I love that I've had teachers, friends and amazing family along the way who've supported opportunities to do and pursue whatever I wanted, even if it was a non - traditional role.

So I was pondering the "dream". Sometimes we jest in a sarcastic fashion, when things are particularly nuts, that we're just "living the dream".  But really, we are.  Its just that we were a little misguided into thinking that any dream worth dreaming might just be handed to us like a winning lotto ticket. And so I kept on coming back to why, and how, to keep pressing on.

I have found an answer, but not one thats all sweet and tied up with a pretty ribbon. It's
hard work and trust in my faith that God will provide.   Its late nights (emergency vet calls, loading hay bales at 10pm, and working horses into the late hours of the night) and early mornings (doing barns before Bren leaves for work at 7, hauling to horse shows at 4am and braiding 6 horses before classes start at 8).  Its hard work. Not romantic, "pretty" work,  but dirty,  exhausting and sometimes grueling work.  Its hauling kids around and forcing them to do slave labour (it "builds character" right? ).  It's having a job that you cant procrastinate or put off until tomorrow.

But what else is it? Why do we do it?

Its seeing the face of a young girl ride her horse proudly into the show arena, achieving all her goals, and coming out, smiling with pride regardless of prizes  knowing she nailed it!  It's my kids running out to visit all their barn "aunties", helping them out, and maybe scoring a quick spin on their ponies.  Its seeing that sick, skinny horse gaining weight, shining up and getting a sparkle back in his eyes, and swearing he's thanking you for helping him feel better.

Its walking up from the barn, late at night, holding Brendan's hand and looking to the beautiful starry sky to thank God for gracing us with far more than we deserve.

I think the reason a lot of people miss out on "living the dream" is because sometimes it doesnt look (or smell) as pretty as they imagined.  They get caught up in complaining about exactly the thing they would previously have given anything to get.  Disillusioment takes over and clouds gratitude.

I don't have all the answers but I believe we're a lot tougher than we think we are.  And I know when I start my day being thankful, instead of being critical and negative and throwing a pity party, I give God room to work some amazing things in my life. I know if I work hard, at the end of the day, He'll pick up where I left off.

Don't be afraid of hard work.   Don't be afraid of failure.  Laugh it off.  We've all been there.  Pick up, dust off and get right back at it.  To end with an old cliche...  the dream is not just the destination ... its the dance you do on the way there.

So be brave, be joy-filled, and just keep on "living the dream"!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Quite the Character

So its April already! Time flies when you're having fun ... waiting for spring ... in the ice ... AND the mud ... and it seems to never arrive ...

Ahhh but I've promised to stop complaining so much.  In fact I've really made a concerted effort (of which nobody around me is allowed to offer critique) to complain less.  I have to get on the "attitude offensive".  We are headed into another season of showing and competing and if I don't make a conscious effort to put on a smile, say positive things and "keep my joy" I will certainly fall. 

Where, you ask?  Well, into the downward spiral that ALL horse people know all too well (and if you don't know it then you've owned your horse in a bubble, or on another planet).  It is the pit of poor character. 

Wikipedia defines "character" (or "moral character") as "an evaluation of a particular individual's stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence, or lack of, virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits."   I find it hilarious and ironic that they use the word "stable" for don't we often find a serious lack of moral quality in the "stable"?

Oh and its not just horse owners.  Its dog owners at the dog park, moms at mom's group and cohorts at work.  "Did you see what she just fed her kid?".  "I cannot believe he lets that mutt off leash ... Doesn't he know we ALL get annoyed?".  "OMG Becky, look at her butt, it is so big ...".  (Yes, that was terrible 80's music reference).  Joking aside though, people can really be cruel.  Horse owners and riders are no exception.  Myself included.  This will be a post I go back and re-read to keep myself honest.

When I was a kid we often complained about being forced into child slave labour (you know, like feeding our horses,  shovelling the stalls (or the snowy driveway), carrying water buckets in the winter because the hose froze,  and a family favorite ... hauling logs!).  Really, these were terrible tasks that no child should be forced to undertake but our parents did, under the very well known premise that it would (dun dun dun .... ) BUILD CHARACTER.  We grumbled and we complained but we did it.  And in doing so, we inevitably developed some fortitude (you know, that thing that makes you stick it out even when it's hard work), honesty (didn't take long for mom and dad to realize that there were 2 days worth of poop in there, not just one!), and other "good habits" (like creativity and resourcefulness ... did you know snow melts in a heated water trough and shovels full of snow are much lighter than buckets of water!).  Either way, our parents were totally right (there Mom and Dad, I said it!) ... we built character.

Now as adults, we are called to show it.

Here's the funniest thing about my state of mind in writing this post.  I'm not envisioning my young clients reading this.  I'm not even really picturing my teenage crowd (who no doubt will get something out of it, but are quite solid kids).  I'm envisioning adults.  Grown people, at a horse show, nattering, and gossiping, criticizing and talking being backs and offering unsolicited advice and showing poor character.  Sometimes its even adults picking on or criticising the younger folk.  I'm envisioning myself standing right there with them. 

This all sounds fairly appalling and shameful, right? So why do we do it? 

I think its like an addiction.  What else would we talk about if not each other's shortcomings, right?

I truly believe that to build character, we must build new habits.  We must recognize that the habits we have are not of "solid moral quality" and we must decide to change them.  And I honestly believe that the only way we can change poor habits is to first form new ones.

So, I'm making it my mission this year (and announcing it publicly so I'm accountable) to step it up a notch and show my kids that I can ride and train horses, teach lessons and show and compete, without entering the gossip mill.  I hope to discover that we can be successful without building our success on someone else's failings.  I would love to spend a whole season building people up, telling them that they can do it, even if it seems far-fetched or unconventional.  I would love to see us all doing this.  Imagine a horse show where we all trained hard, worked hard, rode our butts off and did nothing but support each other in our mutual competitiveness.  Would we somehow lose our edge?  Would it make us less prestigious to stoop down to help a fellow competitor? I don't know.  But I think its a risk I'm willing to take.

Stable moral qualities. A noble aspiration.  I will clean my stalls with joy.  I will deal with difficult people with a smile on my face.  And when I'm tempted to gossip about someone, or show weak moral fortitude, I will simply chuckle and say "Yes, they are quite the character...".

And I will have shown mine.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

"Should" ... The New 4-Letter Word.

I've spent a great deal of my life procrastinating.  In fact, in University, I prided myself on my ability to get things done under pressure.  Unfortunately this meant I constantly had tasks looming around that needed to be done (that I was putting off until I absolutely HAD to get them done).  I cannot tell you how many times I've uttered the phrase, "I should be doing/going/finishing ...".  This has carried over to my riding as well.  "I should be working my horse more/ taking more lessons/ going to more clinics, etc".

Now, don't misunderstand me here.  There is nothing wrong with having a plan regarding things you intend to do.  There is nothing wrong with having an ideal that you're trying to live up to.  What I've come to learn though, is that the word SHOULD must be used with extreme caution. (Please note, I originally wrote this sentence as "the word SHOULD should be used with extreme caution" and then chuckled to myself at the irony of my own hypocrisy).

There is absolutely no time that I can think of that we have to use this awful word.  Why such feelings of bitterness you ask?  Well, the word "should" is like worry.  Its useless.  It doesn't actually motivate you.  It doesn't actually get anything done.  In fact in my experience, thinking about how you "should" be, what you "should" be doing, or things you "should" have done only serves to create unnecessary stress, anxiety and guilt and often stalls us from ever beginning to do those things we feel so compelled to fret about.  Furthermore, up to this point I've only referred to using this word as applied to ourselves.  What about our kids? Our spouses?  Our coworkers? Our horses?

As a riding instructor and trainer it is very easy (and sometimes tempting) to dodge a problem or issue by saying, "well they should know how to do this" or "they should have practiced more/bought a better horse/ listened to me the first time".

Frankly folks, all of these statements are just cop outs.  When faced with a responsibility, problem or task, there are only two useful options ... Deal with it, or don't.  If you choose to jump in and deal with it, get it done, or get busy working at it, great! Do it with a positive and forward thinking attitude.  If you find upon doing so that you are not equipped to do it on your own, ask for help.  Or, if you choose that you simply are not going to do it, deal with it, or finish it, THEN don't.  Certainly though, don't sit around and worry about it. All this does is causes unnecessary stress which is likely to lead to a less productive mentality and more time wasted than if you'd either done it in the first place, or just let it go.

Now, lets tie this into our horse training tools.  Imagine I go out to ride one of my horses.  Lets say I've been working on lateral work such as leg yielding.  I've given a good week or two to the exercise and my horse has been doing quite well.  Maybe 5 months (or 5 years) ago he knew this and I'm just brushing up, or teaching him for the first time.  We've been having some success.  Today though, he is hard, tough and less-than-responsive.  He doesn't move cleanly off my leg and seat cues.  He resists or even pushes back into me.  Maybe he loses his forward momentum, or moves far to quickly and rashly away from my cues.  I begin to grit my teeth and "get into" him a bit.  As he resists I get more frustrated.  The following thoughts start circling in my mind (and if there is a nearby party privy to my plight, I may verbalize these laments):

  • "Why aren't you listening? You should know better than to ignore me."
  • "You did this fine yesterday.  You should be much more responsive."
  • "We've worked on this a million times. You should know how to do this.  "
  • "I should really just get some help but I don't have the time/energy/money/courage.  And anyways, you should just figure it out."
Now all of these thoughts are normal and probably not that uncommon, so why am I beating this point home so hard??  Well, all of these comments DO NOTHING.  Absolutely nothing is accomplished, figured out or achieved, other than to further bolster frustration in both horse and human.

We have to learn to deal with what is right in front of us, in that moment, in whatever state it is in.  For me, this means when I have a rider who is struggling with an issue, I cannot overanalyze where I think they should be or how I think they should be dealing with it.  I have to help them grow and progress to the best of my ability, based on whatever they show me that day.  Laying a guilt trip down about what they should be doing is totally unproductive. 

And riders, you owe your trainers and instructors the same thing.  When you ride your horse, stop worrying about where you think your horse should be or what you think they should be doing, and deal with them where they're at.  If you have an issue with your horse's progress, that is between you and the trainer/ instructor, its not the horse's fault.  (Oh, and if you're the trainer of your own horse, maybe you need to sit yourself down and discuss just how you are going to solve the problem before you take it out on ole' Rusty). 

I always tell my riders:  If a horse knows what to do (he has consistently and repetitively, MANY TIMES OVER, demonstrated the appropriate response to a certain cue/stimulus) and he is physically able (in shape, sound, etc.) to do something ... HE WILL DO IT.  Horses are creatures who enjoy the path of least resistance (you can read last month's post regarding about pressure and letting go).  They do not want a fight and if they are able and know how to do something (and get you to leave them alone), they will.  So if they don't do something it is usually because they either don't know it as well as you thought, or they are physically unable.  I like to eliminate the latter element first.  Make sure your horse is fit, sound and comfortable enough to be doing whatever task you are asking, and make sure you (or your equipment) is not impeding him.  Then, you may just need more practice/teaching time.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.  If the horse (or rider!) has become flustered with that particular exercise you may need to go back to something that is simpler and more achievable. With a little success at an easier task, both parties will be in a much better frame of mind to tackle the more challenging exercise.

The point of the whole matter here is MEET THEM WHERE THEY'RE AT.  This goes for people and horses.  Life gets a lot simpler when you stop beating yourself and others up for where they should be and just deal with them where they are on that day, in that moment.  In the same way that we tend to procrastinate more when we should be doing something different,  you may find that those around you (both 2 and 4-legged) are more likely to advance if you stop having unrealistic or irrelevant expectations and start dealing with growth from where they currently are.  Sometimes that means changing plans, being flexible or being a bit forgiving.  Sometimes it means relenting on one issue/exercise so you can build confidence and come back at it from a new perspective.

Either way, I challenge you as part of your resolutions this year to try and get rid of this rather toxic and unproductive word and replace it with something more tangible, productive and understanding.

I think you should, err you will, find a lot more success this way both in your horsey and human dealings. 

Happy New Year everyone!!