No horse is perfect and all riders, even top pros, make mistakes. Compare riding to baseball - even the king, Felix Hernandez, has his off days. I see riders expecting so much of their horses and some trainers expecting so much from their students. No matter how hard they try, it seems like it's just never good enough. This blows their confidence right out of the water. I think confidence and belief in ourselves, in our horses and in our students is an important component of the overall success of any program.
The pursuit of perfection can lead down a very slippery slope. Over-schooling and excessive drilling in an attempt to get a "perfect ride" becomes destructive and counter-productive causing horses to become over-tired, sore and sometimes just plain lame. Often, the best thing is to just be satisfied with the achievement of forward progress and say you're done for the day - or ready for the class. I always want my horses to have some "try", some "want to", left in them when I quit riding. I want them to be interested in their job and when showing, I want to leave the best for the show ring, not use it all up in the warm-up arena.
Many years ago, a very good horseman from California taught me to let my horses rest their neck and poll before I showed them. Just relax while sitting on them or go for an easy ride around the show grounds. No picking or constantly trying to keep their heads and necks set, just a long rein and a nice break. Then, when I set them up for their entrance, they have a little more sparkle, a little more pizzaz, their mouth is fresher and I think they respond a little better. Sometimes when horses start to get a little dull, a short break to relax can really help. They get lighter in the bridle and collect up a little easier. No one wants to be picked at constantly, especially our horses, it just dulls their senses as they tune out.
Now, all of what I've said here really depends on knowing when your horse is ready to show or has tried to master the lesson for the day. There is no substitute for knowing your horse, it's a vital part of good horsemanship. Remember though, you can school what you want to teach right out of a horse. Sometimes horses act up in the show arena because they know they can get away with it and they no longer want to perform or be picked at. They left their "want to" and "try" in the warm-up arena! Don't try to pursue perfection, pursue improvement instead. Consider a change of routine in your next warm up and see what happens. Hope this helps, see you next week! JD