Making Mistakes by Hans-Michael Schoebinger

Making Mistakes

By Hans-Michael Schoebinger

As you might have noticed already, I tend to be rather cautious when I work with horses. Nowadays. It didn’t use to be that way. In former times I would just get on and take it from there. It took me quite a while to develop an understanding for the horse as a fellow being sharing the same right as myself to live in this world to the fullest expression of her nature. 
As this insight dawned on me, it had me develop a lot of caution so as not to egocentrically inhibit a horse’s progress for purely selfish reasons. So much caution in fact, that most of the time I would ponder on the question, whether to try out something I had seen or heard, for a very long time and then ponder on the question, whether to try out the next thing that had come up in the meantime and forget about the former. These ideas would be internally discussed in endless succession, so that nothing was tried out at all.

In hindsight, at the time, for the most part this was a good thing. Many things that I had pondered on later turned out to be useless or even harmful. Hence not trying them out was the right thing to do. But little by little there were things that I did try out after ages of questioning and then they worked great. At these occasions I would wish I had them tried earlier. Progress was slow, when Mark came up with his suggestion to be a little more experimental.

Luckily during the following conversation, he further illustrated and made the point that ”there are stupid mistakes and there are honest mistakes”. He would avoid the former and not worry too much about the latter. 
I give you an example: There is this new bit on the market and there is a big hype about it. You get it, your horse rejects it, wants to get rid of the torture instrument and bucks you off. That would constitute a stupid mistake. But if you had studied the hype about it at least a bit, concluded that there probably was some merit to it, then spent the time with her and tried it out from the ground first, and only then after careful consideration got on her and then she suddenly decided “No, not with me!” and bucked you off, that would be an honest mistake.

At the same time, we may take into consideration that horses tend to be extremely forgiving. This comes in handy, as it further limits the possible fallout of an honest mistake, in that we really then lack any reason to be overly afraid of the consequences of doing our homework, then carefully and to the fullest of our capabilities giving it a try and then failing.

For me the ‘checklist’ hence has become:

(1) “Do I know what I am doing?” – of course not, nobody does, but at least to a certain degree I am comfortable with.
(2) “Am I able to do it?” – or do I lack some skill or mindset that I have to train as a prerequisite?
(3) “Is she able to do it?” – or is there something that my horse lacks at this time for performing that exercise?
(4) “What is the worst thing that could go wrong?” – and did I consider mitigation measures for the risks involved?
(5) “What is the probability of failure?” – and is there a way to lower that probability by setting us up differently?

As soon as these few questions can be answered in a satisfying manner, the worst thing that can happen is an honest mistake.

But wait, there is one more thing! I’ll include it in the hints section that starts right here:
Your failure would turn from honest to stupid, if you were to blindly follow through with your exercise, although in the midst of it, you notice things going south already. “Failure is always an option”, so don’t try to avoid it at any cost by proceeding and thereby make things worse.
Go through the checklist stated above, but please, don’t excessively contemplate points (4) and (5) – the way things could go wrong. Visualizing each and every horror scenario will significantly increase your odds of failing, because you will shift into a negative mindset and thereby, albeit unconsciously, set yourself up for failure.
In case of failure, remember that “there is no wrong way, just a long way”  and keep experimenting, because “to get to the point of connection that I have with my horses today I had to be willing to be too soft, too strong, not effective, and love my mistakes as much as the good times in harmonious dance.”