Here's the scene:
Your instructor arrives for your lesson. You haven't caught your horse yet and your tack isn't ready. Lesson time is spent catching and readying your horse while talking about everything you did since you saw your instructor last. Maybe you didn't do anything with your horse or you've been having the "ala carte experience", dabbling in a little of everything, not making focused improvement on any one thing. Or maybe you tried a little homework but were confused because you couldn’t remember all the information so you didn’t get anywhere.
You may feel frustrated that you're not making progress and therefore unmotivated. You want to do something new but alas since you didn't work on the skills from the previous lesson, you're doing the same thing… again. Your horse is bored and so are you.
If any of this sounds familiar, or if you’re interested in getting even more out of your lesson and horsemanship time, then read on!
Have a goal! What are you excited to achieve with your horse? What are you willing to do to get that? Verbalize your goal, write it down, and set measurable objectives along the way. Having a destination helps add purpose to your journey. Not sure how to get started mapping out your goals? Ask your instructor for help. They should be using your goals as a blueprint for your lesson plan. I’ve included some of my favorite ways to track goals at the end of this post.
Be ready! Have your horse caught, groomed, tacked, and warmed up (unless you require assistance for any of those things) before your instructor arrives. Your horse should be in a learning frame of mind at the top of the hour because you've spent the time in your warm up getting her calm, connected, and responsive. Now when your instructor arrives you are ready to jump right in to the good stuff and maximize your lesson time!
Come with questions! You will have good questions if you've done your homework between lessons. Show your instructor that you've been practicing by demonstrating what tasks are better and what still feels a little sticky for you and your horse. Share what strategies you've tried to resolve the problem and ask for help on with the remaining challenges.
Be sure to keep asking questions as needed throughout your lesson. There is no such thing as a stupid question. If your instructor answers and you’re still not sure what they mean, keep asking. It is the instructor’s job to rephrase the answer as many times as necessary, finding creative ways to share the information until it clicks for you. This is your time and your learning is your responsibility. Make the most out of it by taking advantage of your instructor’s wealth of knowledge and experience while they are there.
Take notes and ask more questions! When your lesson is wrapping up ask for a recap and for specific things to work on for homework. Ask any lingering questions so you have all the information you need to take the reins on your learning between sessions. Bring a pad and paper or send yourself a text or voice memo with the notes so you don’t forget.
Practice, practice, practice! This is the BIGGEST piece to your progress. 10 quality minutes with your horse is better than no time spent at all or an hour of unfocused time.
This might not sit well with everyone but I challenge you to pause when you find yourself saying "I didn't have time" and instead ask yourself if it's really that you didn't make the time. We make time for things that are important to us, when it’s our priority.
Try this, schedule yourself at least one homework session with your horse between lessons, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Put it on your calendar and act as if it’s an important doctor appointment, showing up to your job or a meeting with your child's teacher. Treat it like it’s something you wouldn't ignore, not show up for, or put off indefinitely. Of course, the more you practice the more progress you’ll make. I see the most progress in students playing with their horse 3 - 4 times a week, even if it’s only for short sessions. Your goal in each session is just to be 1% better than you were last time. That's progress and that's achievable! You can do this!
The success of the student isn't about how talented they are or how well trained their horse is. It's not about access to beautiful indoor facilities or owning all the best gear. It's about goal setting + tracking, preparation, practice, and commitment to their horse and to their role as student. It’s about getting comfortable with the idea of hard work and not being afraid to fail. Only then will you see your dreams become a reality.
Here are a few things that have worked really well for me in staying on track with my goals and progressive in my horsemanship.
Linda Parelli’s Goal Board
Parelli Self Assessment Tasks
Regular Infusion of Inspiration - Podcast, Instagram, YouTube, Savvy Club
I thrive on a daily injection of something that makes me go “WOW!” and reinforces why I started this journey in the first place. I love listening to Kristi Smith’s podcast, I love Amy Bowers’ Instagram account, I love Ryan Rose’s YouTube channel, and, of course, I love the Savvy Club for it’s wealth of education and inspiration from Pat and Linda. Find someone who embodies your dreams with horses and connect with their accounts regularly to stay excited about your own horse and journey.
And that's it! I'll leave you with Pat's "45 P's" here. I bolded the parts that stand out to me in relation to being progressive for your horse by being prepared for your lesson and practicing with quality in mind.
Pat Parelli proudly presents his provocative and progressive programs and the proclamation that prior and proper preparation prevents p-poor performance, particularly if polite and passive persistence is practiced in the proper position. This perspective takes patience from process to product, from principle to purpose. The promise that Pat plans to prove is that practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect and, isn’t it peculiar how these poor prey animals perceive people as predators prior to practicing the Parelli Program.