There are many advantages to being challenged and, one of the greatest end results is improvement. I find that challenging my students and horses helps them succeed because it increases their confidence, keeps them fresh and interested and prepares them for their upcoming shows. Additionally, being challenged can be fun!
Now, I do think it can be a bit tricky to get this just right so the challenge stays positive and doesn't discourage. I always consider where the horse and rider are at in their achievement level. I most certainly will not ask a rider to perform something I have not asked their horse to do myself (assuming the horse is in training. When the horse and rider are coming for lessons only, I carefully watch the horse before deciding where I want to go with it).
I also assess the horse's and rider's weaknesses and strengths before I give them something more challenging to work on. If you challenge in a positive manner, you can increase confidence
and improve on weak areas. It's important to be realistic in your requests.
Another thing that I believe in strongly is the advantage of having horses and riders that are less advanced ride with others who are further along - sometimes much further along. When I do this, I always point out things that are maybe just too hard for the less advanced horse at the moment but that the they can aspire to do. They're able to see a guide and then visualize their ultimate goal.
In Trail this might be translated into asking one horse and rider team to lope certain obstacles while another only jogs the same obstacles - everyone's learning and everyone's taking part in a positive challenge. It's a very rewarding day when I see a team do something that they thought they "could never do"!
On a personal note, in challenging my horses and riders, I must challenge myself. I am constantly resetting the bar for my students which makes me think and try harder! As a group, we do this together, constantly learning and improving. When you stop improving, you start declining. In horses as in life in general, there is no such thing as resting on your past achievements. (Many thanks to Gina Heinricks, pictured here on her horse Montego Bay Star, for giving me the idea for this blog!) See you all next week! JD