All the time whilst training and trying to develop a blank canvas of a horse into a competition animal it seems like you are always searching for the next step, always aiming for more, and better. Then one day it’s like *click* and another piece of the puzzle falls into place. That raw and un-ready creature you were riding a few weeks ago suddenly grows up over night and is more educated and knowledgeable than before. It’s not magic though, it’s not to do with the phases of the moon, or the feng shui of your stable it’s down to hours in the saddle and darned hard work!
I think it’s so easy to forget just how much of a learning curve it is in the early days to get a green horse to the stage where it is ready to go out to its first event, and having had Soap for so many years before Dustry I had forgotten the amount of ‘back catalogue’ he had notched up, in stark contrast to how much D didn’t know.
I am pleased to say though that of late it feels like D is really getting to grips with challenges that I throw at him. The best way to describe it is to say he seems to have matured.
Last weekend we went out for a hack. Now I’m not that keen on hacking, and I can’t actually remember the last time I hacked him, but faced with 1.5hrs of hacking through the woods with a strange horse, taking the lead when it came to cantering and trotting in open grassy spaces he was 100% perfect. He was lit up and obviously on his toes (understandably) at first but he has grown up so much now that he knows to behave and trust what I’m asking him to do.
Today I boxed him over to a local arena to school over some little SJ’s with a friend and although he was his usual fidgety self to get on (must address this issue, which is a result of being spoilt with a MASSIVE mounting block at home) he settled super quick in the arena, and didn’t bat an eye lid at all the jumps and paraphernalia at the edge of the school, and stood like an old pro in the corner whilst my friend’s green horse was a bucking bronco and leapt around in a very exciting fashion! D just stood like a rock, reins on the buckle end, chilled and unaffected by the other horse’s antics. He was fab round the little course and didn’t touch a pole, and didn’t miss a beat when I pointed him at a little brush fence he had never seen before, straight over he went.
I know these seemingly insignificant ‘good moments’ only seem like little things, but I am taking inspiration from the Team GB Olympic cycling team. At last year’s Olympics our cyclists won 12 medals, 7 golds in the velodrome, setting new World Records and leaving the competition standing. Now I’m not saying I’m aiming at Rio 2016! I am however taking on board the wisdom of ‘marginal gains’ as developed by their coach David Brailsford.
Put simply the theory of ‘margin gains’ is that if you can improve 100 little things relating to your performance then the net impact is considerable. I think this is a great approach and one that everyone can easily employ. So ignore people when they say ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ because it’s the small stuff that counts!
Video of interview with David Brailsford discussing his coaching approach below…