Developing Magnificence

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, be creative as you read these coaching notes about how to structure the schooling session.  Find ways to relate these ideas to your non-riding goals.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

book study

Part 5: “Developing Magnificence” 

"Connection" copyright Cheri Isgreen

“Connection” copyright Cheri Isgreen

P 194-195

Magnificence is accessible to all; it is possible when you clear away your personal interference to discover your full potential.  Embrace your uniqueness by fully expressing who you are and realizing your capabilities.  By reaching inside yourself to discover your personal resources, you will gain a sense of quiet satisfaction from knowing what is special about yourself.  These habits of mind developed with the horse have real spillover into the rest of life.  Maslow calls this state “self actualization,”  similar to the Renaissance idea of “sprezzatura,” an effortlessness or grace.  This state allows one to  experience the elation of harmony.  Your focus is in the moment.  Maslow calls this “peak experience.”  It matters not the content of the experience, (what happened); what is special is the process.  For peak experiences to occur, you must develop full engagement involving awareness at all levels- senses, emotions, intellect.

The following are examples from Jago’s case studies of her NLP coaching.

P195-199  NIKKI G     Her goals: change habit of collapsing at the waist and looking down. Improve her horse’s way of going which was heavy on the forehand, leaning on the rider’s hand.  Her assets:  commitment, enthusiastic engagement, creative problem solving     Her horse’s assets: good nature, rhythmical gaits, lateral suppleness     Strategy: play- allowing momentary issues and opportunities to guide schooling, focusing on only one or two issues each session.  Relaxed focus fostered improvement for the pair.

Enabled & Empowered:  Nikki feels she has achieved

  • the freedom to experiment and play to solve problems
  • awareness to capitalize on good points and improve or stretch other areas
  • horse is relaxed and happy in his work
  • Getting things right made me tense.  Now I think about patterns and exercises to engage the horse physically and mentally
  • There are no right/wrong or black & white.  Feedback from what I sense gives me a constructive way to change or improve something.

P199-203  NICKY M     Her goals:  change how she feels about performance problems and mistakes, so she can compete without “scratching.”     Strategy:  reframe problems during competition, not a success/failure issue or overwhelming disaster.  Instead, problems give input for where to focus work.  Change focus from worrying about how others see her mistakes to maintaining communication with her horse, which changed Nicky’s behavior, belief system, and identity.  Outcome of strategies: The mare became longer, looser, and more forward with greater softness, and engagement.  The pair experienced generous, expressive harmony.  Nicky became generous with herself after making mistakes, which allowed her to continue to compete without withdrawing, as well as to place and qualify.  Nicky developed a much broader sense of what doing well really meant to her.

Putting competitions into perspective, Nicky’s thoughts:

  • Unless I’m enjoying my horse, there’s no point in riding.
  • People are too busy in their own lives to ponder my mistakes in competition.
  • Most judges are on your side.
  • In the great scheme of things, it matters more whether I enjoyed the test and what I can learn from my performance, rather than if I made mistakes.
  • Applying this change of perspective to everyday life has resulted in positive effects.

Nicky feels she has achieved:

  • a different perspective of what really matters in life
  • a better, more trusting relationship with my horse, family, and friends
  • riding focus has changed from competition to preparatory work
  • I’ve learned to use positive thought processes.
  • I’m a happier person for others to be around, including my horse.

P205-207  SEAN     His goals: improve confidence and riding position to become more effective in communicating with his horses, especially in the lateral work.  A focus on the process: personalizing and evaluating tips for riding the laterals through use of search questions.  Sean learned how to analyze what happened inside his mind and body to make a strategy successful.  This helped him ride more effectively and understand his own metacognition for future improvement.

The process: try strategy, evaluate strategy- how did it work, personalize learning by making decisions based on experience & evaluation.

  • conscious incompetence I didn’t know that
  • conscious competenceI can do this now
  • unconscious competencesprezzatura, effortless effort

Sean feels he has achieved:

  • confidence to school in playfulness, not being afraid to make mistakes
  • taking charge of his horses’ training by understanding the how’s and why’s of schooling through search questions
  • improved posture to effectively communicate with his horses, using small details to make big changes

P209-215  MARISIAN  Her goals: build great rapport with her young ponies to develop freedom and fluency.  She works mostly on her own, with little formal instruction.  Her strategies: employ mutual attention and respect to discover and develop the innate abilities of each pony.  She uses groundwork (long-reining and lungeing), as much as riding to gather information and develop rapport.

Marisian’s reflections on Solo Schooling:

  • Because I can see the pony, I use groundwork to soften him until he “feels right.”  I aim for fluency, suppleness, and freedom, with one movement flowing into the next.
  • The pony must be forward, using his muscles, in front of the leg, accurate, listening.
  • Maximize what the pony’s has; don’t focus on what he doesn’t have.
  • Take into account the pony’s personality and my mood.
  • When riding, I’m in-time and in the moment, using unconscious competence.

Marisian’s recommendations for successful Solo Schooling:

  • continuous assessment- spend more time reflecting than riding
  • continue to discover new ways to communicate
  • model what other successful riders do; evaluate if it works for you, your horse
  • learn from bad rides
  • reflect how your body impacts your horse
  • develop a new language with each individual horse you ride, how they need to move, and how they could be
  • have confidence in yourself and your horse


Developing qualities of uniqueness, harmony, authenticity, and self-belief are more important than the specific goals you are working toward.  These qualities enable you to work through problems and achieve goals.  Coach yourself with generosity, support, and truthfulness.  As you ride your horse well with sympathy, and coach yourself with curiosity about what is observable, interesting, and relevant, you will release the magnificence in you and your horse.


4 comments on “Developing Magnificence

  1. Courtney says:

    Wonderful blog post!

    I have never come across another rider who has used or mentioned NLP before. I was first introduced to it many years ago when I was doing an academic study of the affects of NLP on baseball players. When I carried it over another semester, I specifically wanted to focus on and find a way to correlate it with my dressage training. I came across the book “The Power to Win: Peak Performance with Hypnosis and NLP” by Laura Boynton King. A pretty interesting read. Definitely opened my eyes to the fact that all riders can achieve a decent level of competence and harmony in their dressage tests, regardless of their formal training and caliber of horse.

    Again, great post!

    • I originally came across NLP as a way to negotiate life’s challenges. As a professional educator, I was struck by how closely NLP coaching techniques described by Wendy Jago mirrored my teaching practice and educational research. Sometimes the labels were different, but the ideas were the same. Since you ride dressage, I think you would really like this book. I’d like to read her first book now about solving schooling problems through NLP.

      Happy riding.

  2. This makes a lot of sense, and yes, I will try and incorporate this in my everyday important relationships.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s