My favorite students to teach are the ones who diligently try to improve between our lessons. I honestly don't care if that person is a beginner rider learning how to walk and trot or if they are an upper-level rider who is trying to perfect a difficult movement or smooth out a jump course.
If they are making new mistakes because they are trying to do things differently enough to improve, then I'm thrilled. I don't care if they progress at a snail's pace, as long as I see them trying to do things a little differently and running the experiment of “what will happen if.”
I find that the most difficult students to teach are the ones who come to their lessons every week and pay to be told the same exact thing they were told the week prior. For sure, it's up to that person. I can't make anyone work harder or push them outside their comfort zone in their personal sessions with their horse, but it's hard for me to understand.
Even if you don't have Olympic aspirations or the goal to show at all, aren't you interested in communicating with your horse more clearly? In understanding what they are telling you in your time together? Isn't there always something you can learn and improve upon?
I get the sense from the people who get stuck in that repetitive lesson cycle that there may be fear behind their stagnation. Maybe it's a fear of what their horse will do if they try something new. Will it do something unpredictable or frightening? Or maybe it's a fear of looking silly or seeming like they don't have all the answers.
Whatever the reason, I would encourage a bit of examination. I don't know any positive change in my life or in the lives of people close to me that hasn't come from a bit of discomfort. I can't remember learning something new, that made a positive impact on my life, that didn't contain an aspect of being uncomfortable as I tried to grasp it.
Sure, you can keep paying for the same lesson, week after week, month after month. But wouldn't it be more interesting to step a little bit out of your comfort zone and try something new?
Practice leaning into discomfort, even if it doesn't become something you do every day – even if it's just an experiment. After all, you are sitting on a 1000-pound animal, asking it to do your bidding. There must be some part of you that enjoys a challenge and a little bit of risk.
So the next time you feel stuck, be curious about the fear that might be behind it. And remember that just outside of your comfort zone is exactly where learning and improvement happens.