I spend my life creating intangible and fleeting moments: An amazing feeling on a horse, a breakthrough of understanding for a student. I live for those moments, and they can't be held onto. They leave with the breeze or the next stride. The effects of them live on and manifest in visible ways, but the moment itself becomes a memory, and a story we tell. Some of those stories we tell for a lifetime and some we need to let go of.
Today as I dragged the arena I contemplated the hoof-prints I was smoothing over. I saw the line just off the track where yesterday Ovation calmly did more one-tempis than he ever had before. I saw the 10 meter circle that Solana did without losing balance on the last 2 strides, and I saw the 20 meter circles where Natilla stretched with so much power and grace. I remembered the warm supple feeling of her back muscles as I rode it bareback. I also saw the flat spot where Hot Shot laid down and we peacefully napped together for a while after a good ride.
And I'm erasing it all. We can't hang on to those moments even though we may think: 'I'll never drag this arena again' after riding a perfect centerline or serpentine. Holding on is rarely a good strategy when it comes to horses. I know that I am preparing the ground for our new layer of progress. I am setting the stage for new days and new rides and new amazing feelings.
I also saw the hoof-prints of the crooked backups I kept repeating until I finally realized what I needed to change, and all the repeated laps around the arena I did before I figured out my horses needed a different plan. It's normal to want to erase those moments; to cover up the evidence. But it can feel good to look at them again, and learn... and then drag over them. But do we really erase them? I hear it all the time from students (and yes sometimes from my own brain, too): 'I'm terrible at this', 'I' just can't.'
Those are old hoof-prints.
We do get to erase them all. Look at them, learn from them, and then erase them. We can choose to keep the stories and lessons that serve us. The others can go back into the other grains of sand to be mixed up, leveled out and re-presented to us as a second (and third and fourth and infinite) chance to better our last best efforts.
Today, contemplation is a drag of the arena: I do. I get a result. I learn. I celebrate. I let it go. I clean the slate and set myself up for another day. Then I do it all again.
Erase the great moments because that keeps you humble. Erase the not-so-great moments because that keeps you free.
How beautiful is that?! :-) A sacred ritual for life revealed on the back of a tractor.
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Karen Rohlf, author and creator of the Dressage Naturally program, is an internationally recognized clinician who is changing the equestrian educational paradigm. She is well known for doing dressage with a priority of partnership, her student-empowering approach to teaching, her virtual courses, and her positive and balanced point of view.