From Endurance to Dressage
High Skill, Low Will
Yesterday, the first and fifth grade teams at my school site met for a two and a half hour professional training session. Other professions call it Continuing Ed. Since educators invented the idea of acronyms, we can't call it CE anymore because someone else uses that term. We NOW call it PD, professional development.
All of that is neither here nor there. The point is that one part of what we did really resonated with me. Using a Jamboard (it's a live document that works like an idea board where everyone can post at the same time), we divided our students into one of four groups:
As I saddled up yesterday afternoon, I kept reminding myself to Saddle Up Anyway. The truth is that I am feeling pretty run down. Not only have I over-committed myself in some areas of life, but I am also over-worked at work, discouraged and frustrated by what's going on in the world politically, and disappointed in Izzy's lack of obvious improvement. He and I have the same discussions every single day, and I am getting pretty tired of it all.
As my shoulders sagged, I gave myself a quick shake and said try something different. While reflecting on the day's discussion, I realized that Izzy falls into the category of high skill, low will. He's very capable, but he can't or won't do I what I need him to do. Kids like him are the hardest for me to work with. Everyone loves the high skill, high will kids; they can run your classroom. I also find great satisfaction in working with the low skill, high will kids. They're the ones that keep me going back year and year.
The others? Those who can but won't, they're the reason I want to quit teaching. I have more than a couple of those kiddos in my class right now. While the high skill, low will kiddos are tough, it is the the low skill, low will students who cause teachers to drink.
Speedy was always a high will/low skill kind of horse. Being successful isn't always about your ability. You can make up for any deficiencies in talent by simply working hard. Izzy falls pretty solidly in the opposite corner. His skills are high, but his will is low. Using the chart above, it's easy to see why Speedy was a solid performer and why Izzy is an under performer.
So what did I end up doing that was different? I lowered my expectations and worked on giving Izzy something to do where he could earn lots of quick, positive feedback. We walked, and that's all we did for nearly 40 minutes. I wanted him to feel successful early on in the ride, and often. In our PD work yesterday, we listed some of the strategies necessary for this type of learner to succeed. They need incentives, lots of positive feedback, and a clear cut reason for what they're doing.
Understanding why these learners have low will is also important. Some are simply unmotivated. They don't really care. Others are fearful of failing; they just won't try because the idea of failing is untenable. Izzy suffers from a lot of anxiety. He simply doesn't feel confident in the world around him which must include me. So, we walked. When he pushed against me, we halted and I waited for him to let his under neck muscle go, and then we walked some more. Eventually, he was carrying himself, and when he did want to pop his head up, I simply touched the rein and he relaxed.
I am pretty positive one day of walking hasn't fixed his low will mentality, but it certainly helped me be a better leader. This is definitely something I am going to be considering in the future. We work hard to teach out students that it is only with a growth mindset that they can be successful. I need to remember that with Izzy; he doesn't have a rising will yet.
And if nothing else, I am grateful that he doesn't fall into the low will/low skill group. I'd be a drunk quitter!
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: