Mistakes. We all make them. We all cringe. We are our own worst critics. Often we beat ourselves up after a mistake. We chastise, criticize, and mentally flog ourselves for hours, days, or even weeks afterward. Meanwhile life goes on without us while we are stuck in the past with our miserable memory of the awful miscalculation, misspeak, misstep, or mistake. This can be especially true when our horses or horsemanship are involved. We love our horses and we want to be perfect for them.
But we’re human—the very definition of nowhere near perfect. Life and our horsemanship would be better if we could find a way to make friends with our mistakes. If we could learn, not just to live, but to thrive with the inevitable mistakes we are all going to make we’d all be happier healthier humans. And wouldn’t it be great if all those mistakes could actually be good for our horsemanship?
Our mistakes can be the best thing for our horsemanship – it’s just about perspective. What if you paid attention to the result of a mistake instead of the mistake itself? It probably wasn’t very pretty, but look anyway. There’s good information there. How did the horse react? What happened after that? Ah ha! This is new information about your horse. Consider it. File it away. You just learned something about your horse you didn’t know before. This new information could prove valuable later on.
Have you ever had a ride with your horse when you knew things weren’t right? You know you made some kind of mistake. There was some kind of miscommunication. You just don’t know what it was. Instead of getting down on yourself, say, “Hmmmm.” Remember as much as you can about the situation. Sometime in the future you may learn something new or hear something that jogs your memory, and that frustrating ride will make sense. You will have learned something.
The trick is to only make the same mistake once and treat it like the gift that it is. Observe the mistake and the result—even if you don’t quite understand it yet. Repair it the best way you can and move on. Don’t judge it. Don’t punish yourself or your horse. Ask yourself how this mistake is a blessing, what it has taught you, and how it can help you and your horse move forward. And if the answer doesn’t immediately present itself, don’t worry. It will in time. Keep learning. Keep practicing. Keep asking questions and pay attention to what your horse has to tell you. Give your mistakes the respect they deserve.