Railbird Reflections, The Nature of Progress


Awareness of the outside world. Smithsonian: Sneaky Magpies Outwit Scientists by Removing Tracking Devices, Gamillo, February 25, 2022.


Now that I go to write this out, it seems obvious. What can I say, it struck me at the time.

I was watching a lesson at Stepping Stone Farm. For a handful of strides, the rider looked as good as the barn’s Triple Crown Adult Equitation winner. Really stellar. I was deeply impressed that the rider had come so far since I had last seen them. [Barnshine photo of SSF’s eq star]

The next part of the lesson was less lovely.


One tends to think of progress as an ascending curve. You work on a skill. You get better at the skill.

In reality, progress is more of an upward zig-zag. You work on a skill. You get better at this part of the skill. You have trouble with that part of the skill. You get it for a few strides/games/insert sport or art-specific analogy. You revert to former habits. And so on.

The general trend is upward but the path is not smooth.

Reminded me of an ASB show a while back. A capital-F fancy barn made an appearance at one of the shows we attended. One class had a rider from fancy barn along with one of our riders. Fancy rider was on a horse whose name even I recognized from flipping through the magazines. Saddlebred rock star.

Fancy horse trucked around the ring in perfect form at every step.

Our horse looked as good as fancy horse, for a stride or two. Other times, less so.

Progress is not linear.

As I said, obvious now that I write it down. Maybe it was the fact of seeing such a clear example occur in front of me.


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