In the Oct 2011 issue of Dressage Today, Dr Cesar Parra wrote an article about teachable moments. In it he says, “When schooling at home, if your horse makes a mistake and does not do what you ask or do it as well as he should, you have been given the opportunity to teach him something in that moment.” Then he goes on to describe a rider using an inappropriate supporting aid to prevent their horse from making a mistake. To that Dr Parra says, “So what? If he does [make a mistake], then you go back and ride the exercise correctly until the horse understands what you want and follows suit. Never alter how you ride or compromise your position to avoid making a mistake.”
Sometimes I catch myself “setting Wally up for success” by avoiding the things would cause him to fail. For example, if I see a person walking down the street toward us I cross to the other side so that Wally won’t try to get too friendly and jump up. While this might help avoid an embarrassing moment, it does nothing to train him how to actually behave in those situations. Dr Parra’s thoughts made me pause for thought. Certainly I want to set Wally up for success, but I also must remember to allow him to fail. It takes many, many failures before true success is achieved, and especially before a truly thinking dog is created. I would much rather Wally think about the situation and how he should behave rather than go through life thinking about the shortest distance from point Wally to point B.
Just another lesson in awareness as an owner and trainer!