Episode 184-The benefits and challenges of learning to evaluate your ride

Have you developed the skill of evaluating your rides?
The skill of evaluating yourself is highly valuable. It improves your ability to be fully present during your ride, it makes you more coachable when you receive instruction, and you get results faster.
If all this is true…why do people resist evaluating themselves?
The main reason people avoid it is that they haven’t learned how…so they default to criticism and self judgement.
Evaluating yourself is a SKILL that you can develop. It is a process you can learn. In this episode, I explain the value, the challenges and offer two tips for overcoming the resistance to evaluating yourself.


Episode 184-The benefits and challenges of learning to evaluate your ride.mp3
Stacy Westfall: [00:00:00] So not only can you evaluate yourself more accurately, you also receive instruction from a completely different place. It is amazing.

Announcer: [00:00:15] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill, this is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:35] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I help riders become confident, communicate clearly, and get better results with their horses. In this season of the podcast, I’m going to share with you some of the concepts that I teach my students inside my programs. These are the ideas that are helping my students train their own horses at home, themselves. In this episode, I’m going to talk to you about developing the skill of evaluating your own rides. I’m going to cover why evaluations are valuable and how most people do them, why people resist learning to self-evaluate, and then I’m going to share some tips on how to overcome the resistance to learning this new skill. First up is just a recap of, what is an evaluation? On the surface, the idea of an evaluation seems like a really simple concept. The dictionary says that evaluating is to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study. I think this is what poses the first challenge for a lot of students is actually the question of, where are you right now? And the reason why it’s an interesting question is because, Where are you right now? is easier if it’s relative to something. So when you go to evaluate, you have to actually decide what you’re measuring against. You could be measuring against where you were a year ago. You could be measuring against where you want to be in the future. But basically what you’re doing is you are determining what standard you’re going to be evaluating with. As soon as I say that, it leads really naturally into understanding what the most popular form of evaluation is. So if you have ever taken a riding lesson or ever competed in a show, then you have participated in an evaluation. And you also know the power of being evaluated. If you went the instructor route, you probably chose that instructor because you wanted to be evaluated according to their standard. Or if you went to a show, you were looking to see how you measured up against the show standard. These are different versions of evaluations. Having the standard, which could be the instructor standard or the show standard, makes the job of evaluating even more clear because evaluating essentially is important because it lets you see the areas where you’re doing well and the areas where you could do more to bring you closer to your goal. Now, I think the idea of evaluation is not hard for people to understand. You might be listening to this and kind of nodding or maybe your brain is drifting away and you’re thinking something like, obviously. But here’s the moment of truth. When is the last time you were evaluated by a new or different instructor or went to a show? How did you feel just prior to that type of an evaluation?

Stacy Westfall: [00:04:06] So for most people, right before you go take a lesson from a new instructor or you go to a show, a lot of times that’s when people will report feeling nervous or, you know, some kind of uncomfortable feeling. Because a lot of times if you’re new to showing or this is a new instructor, you’re entering into an unknown type of evaluation process. If you’ve been taking lessons from somebody for a long time, can you hear how you would be more on board with that evaluation process? If you’ve been taking lessons for years from somebody, maybe you don’t feel that new feeling of being evaluated. And the reason I want you to have that–that feeling of the first time you’re evaluated in your mind is because I want you to really have that feeling of what comes up for you. So let’s think about it this way. If someone signs up for one of my courses and I ask them to submit a video, let’s imagine that that’s you. If you sign up for my private coaching, then I’m going to want to see a video of your entire work session. I want you to videotape the whole thing. Maybe that’s an hour. Maybe that’s an hour and a half. Maybe that’s 30 minutes, totally up to you. But I want all of it, and I want you to send it to me. Physically this is not a hard thing to do. But I’m here to tell you, people struggle with it because physically the challenge is not really that big. You set your phone on a tripod, you record, you walk out there, and you ride, ground work, ride, whatever. Mentally, that’s where people struggle. Because what happens is that people go out there and they start thinking about the fact that someone else, Stacy Westfall, is going to watch this video. So you can start to see that the evaluation process on the surface looks like it would be pretty easy. A lot of times when you think that it’s because you’re in a known situation, you know the evaluator, the person you take lessons from, you know the judging system because you’ve been doing that for a long time, a lot of times you really feel the reality of this when you switch to a new instructor or you switch to a new discipline and you really start to feel some of that possible resistance that could come up.

Stacy Westfall: [00:06:19] So inside my online riding course that I do with groups of students, I do student evaluations. And sometimes these are a live Zoom call, and other times they are voiceovers that I put into the course so that all the students can watch them. And so it benefits the students that submitted the video, but also everybody else inside the course. I also ask students to submit questions and success stories, and I just think this is such an important one to share here. Here’s what one student had to say: Submitting a video is my success story. First, I will say kudos to this little horse for being who he is. He hasn’t been saddled since November and I haven’t ridden him in almost two years. It was windy and cold, but since I have trouble with stops, I wanted to try it and he obliged. Now, saying all that I’ve been giving myself the out from submitting a video because my other horse, my primary horse, wasn’t available. I’ve been telling myself I should really work on it more. I should exhaust every idea I can come up with before getting insights and help, and I should wait until I can do it with my own horse. But truth be told, I’m afraid to let anyone else see what I do. Tons of self-judgment. You’re a wonderful coach. I’ve never heard you say one thing that would make me feel this way. It’s all on me when it comes to myself and my massive self-judgment and insecurity. It infiltrates all areas of my riding and everything else. I kind of knew this already. This course has been giving me some ways to change, as opposed to just saying, This is the way I am. So here is a step. I’m facing the fear of putting it out there. But please still keep me anonymous. Baby steps.

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:10] Oh, I had to share that because it brings me to my next point, which is why people resist learning to self-evaluate. The main answer is found in what I just read. Many people find it a challenge to remain neutral while evaluating themselves. You can hear that if you have that self-judgment, it can be layered on or at least a component of the fear of judgment from others and the already self-fulfilling prophecy of self-judgment. So people often really resist the idea of learning to self-evaluate. When I first asked riders to record themselves and watch it, many people have a lot of resistance to even doing that step themselves, even before sharing it with me. There is a great resistance that many people have in simply hitting record, recording a session, and then watching their own session and here’s why. The experience is often painful because all they see when they watch the video is what is not working. All they see is negative and as they watch that, they just feel more frustration and doubt and all of those yucky feelings. And then what’s even worse a lot of times is that they can see what’s “wrong,” but they’re not sure how to change it. So why would they want to look at it? They’re like, Oh, it’s just painful. And so for a lot of people, this is where they get stuck. And on the surface, again like I said at the beginning of the podcast, they might agree with the concept of evaluating, but the actual process of doing it and executing on it, mmm? Those who do it and do it often will make so much more progress than those who don’t if they can get over this hump. So this is why I believe that a lot of times the number one way that people get evaluation is with an instructor. Hiring a riding instructor is something people are a lot more familiar with and they’re often a lot more open to. And once they get past the first part of finding somebody that they trust and they go to that first initial lesson and get past that first evaluation, a lot of times they’re a lot more comfortable. And this is where I frequently see students hand over the role of evaluator to the riding instructor. And there is a piece of that that is true. However, I also want to encourage students to fully step into evaluating themselves. Because if you learn how to evaluate yourself and you also take evaluation from instructors this is when the magic starts to happen and here’s why. When you can evaluate yourself at home in between lessons, you have more control over your learning. You can move faster. You can actually watch your own video and know what you need to go back and review and where you should go next. Once you can evaluate yourself, you’re not only less dependent on the instructors, but here’s the big one, because I still see the value in–in riding instructors. What happens when you are able to get to that neutral place where you can self-evaluate is that you get more from the instructors when you ride with them. So instead of you going and being in the role where you are taking the lesson and you’re kind of still carrying some of that self-judgment, but you’re masking it with like, well, the instructor will be telling me this and the instructor will be telling me that. When you actually face your self-judgment of watching your own videos at home, learning how to evaluate them when you are able to do that and you can get to that neutral place when you go to take that lesson from the instructor you will hear their evaluation and get the opportunity to line it up with yours. You will hear their instruction from such a different place than if you are taking that lesson while still carrying the self-judgment. So not only can you evaluate yourself more accurately, you also receive instruction from a completely different place. It is amazing.

Stacy Westfall: [00:13:00] I’ve got one more thing, though. One final challenge that I’m going to put up there on the table. When you are learning to evaluate, another place where people really struggle is that when you are evaluating yourself and you’re trying to change your habits–Can you hear how this could be a challenge for people when you are changing your habits? When you’re trying to learn something new, then nothing feels right. So if nothing feels right and you’re learning to do something new, it does often feel like having the riding instructor standing right there telling you what to do, right or wrong, good, bad, yes, no. It feels like that would be the better situation, because what it does, if you’re in the middle of this changing your habits and it’s going to feel off as you’re learning that new thing, a lot of times people want to skip over that uncomfortable feeling of, Oh, this feels a little bit messy. And they think that having the instructor there will help get them past that faster. But what is so interesting to me is that over the years of teaching people live and in-person at clinics and lessons, doing that and teaching people through video, it’s very interesting because the students that are the most engaged are the ones who are willing to embrace this process and the good times and the messy times. And what they learn is they learn how to cross over this bridge. And one of the things that they learn by watching their own videos and learning how to evaluate them is they learn how to see themselves from a different viewpoint, from a different angle. And when they learn this, they can see the messiness of, let’s say, trying to learn how to do a flying lead change. They can see the messiness of it with and without the instructor there. And what this does for them is that they can then see, oh, yes, I can see where if I used that leg a little bit differently like you just told me, I can see how that would change the experience. So what happens is the students who are willing to go through this process in the good times and the messy times is they’re the ones that learn how to basically be in the experience when they’re riding the horse and then evaluate the experience when they’re watching the video. Again, I’m not telling you this because I think you should be getting away from instructors. What I’m saying is that it changes the way you receive instruction. It changes how you process the new information. And because these riders–what I consistently see is that because they’re not fully dependent on the instructors opinion, like they’re practicing forming their own thoughts and opinions and they’re holding it up to the instructors thoughts and opinions. Because they are taking that full ownership what I consistently see is that they are more present during the ride. Which to me people a lot of times are like, do you have to just be born with feel or can feel be developed? When you are fully present during your ride and you’re focused on how things feel during that ride that is how you get more feel. You are more fully present during the ride, making decisions, and then evaluating yourself afterwards. And this is happening because you’ve dropped that self-judgment.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:50] The skill of learning how to do this on your own makes you a better student when you do get instruction. And the reality is that the faster and more often you do this loop of executing, evaluating, adjusting, executing, evaluating, adjusting, the more often you do this loop, the faster you’re going to learn. And it makes sense to me that this process would be even more important while you’re changing your habits and while you’re changing your horse’s habits. The good news is that learning how to evaluate is actually a skill. Learning how to evaluate is something you can learn. So if students aren’t taught how to evaluate, then a lot of them get stuck in that moment when they are just self-judging. They’re criticizing themselves. They just see all the negative. And when you’re in that place, it’s really hard to just figure it out. This is when you’re much more likely to, if you do try to break this cycle, a lot of times you just go to the instructor and rely on them. If you do learn the skill of evaluating yourself, you will be practicing a new way of viewing yourself. You’ll be practicing watching your rides, and you’ll be seeing the opportunity to understand yourself better. You’ll start to see the things that you didn’t even know you were doing. And, P.S. Some of those are good. They’re not all bad like you might think right now if you haven’t practiced this. And what’s very interesting to me is that when you learn how to watch videos of yourself and evaluate them from this neutral place, it’s an even stronger way to move this muscle memory into your body because you literally experience the ride and then you’re watching the ride and you start to really be able to remember how it felt in your body and see how it looks on the video. And that is the very fastest way to change the way that you ride. It’s why they have mirrors on the walls for the Olympic riders, because even with the instructor standing there talking to them, there’s something different when you see it and you’re experiencing it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:19] So now that I’ve talked to you about the value and the challenges of learning to evaluate yourself, let’s talk a little bit about overcoming the resistance to learning this new skill. I think the biggest one is really focusing on the benefit that you will gain. And for me, this is a lot like the process I went through with exercise. I’ve known my whole life that exercise was important, and I didn’t do it because I didn’t really see the benefit. In more recent years, I was able to shift my way of thinking and realize I didn’t like exercising, but I really liked the result of it. I like being fit and the more I’ve practiced that loop of originally the awareness that exercise is not my favorite thing to do but I do like the result, I like that I’m stronger when I ride my horses, I like the feeling of being fit. By dealing with that loop over and over again, I’ve actually been able to shift the way that I feel about exercise. So now instead of having this incredible resistance to exercise, I can focus on the benefit of being more fit and riding better. And because I’m focused on the result of being fit, it takes the edge off from that original resistance to exercise. And this is the same process I would recommend for you. If you are interested in learning to evaluate yourself, focus on the benefit. Why are you trying to improve? What are you doing this for? Are you doing it because you want to be more safe? Are you doing it because you want increased enjoyment? Are you doing it because you’re learning a new skill? You want to go compete in a Western dressage class or you want to do lead changes or you want to try working equitation. Whatever it is there’s some reason why you are wanting to improve. Get really clear on what that is and then back into this process being one of the ways you’re going to arrive there. Because evaluating will always help you reach any goal you set faster.

Stacy Westfall: [00:21:45] Another great way to practice evaluation is actually by learning to evaluate others, because a lot of times when we watch someone else learning something new, we’re more accepting of the learning process. You might have experienced this if you were ever at a group clinic or at a riding lesson where you were able to watch somebody else when they were taking the lesson. A lot of times when we watch someone else learning something new, we have less judgment of the normal mistakes that come when you’re trying to learn something new. And when you start challenging yourself to watch and evaluate someone else’s riding, it’s a great way to practice the skill of staying neutral. So you can watch and you can see and you can make the guess about why the horse is responding a certain way and you can listen to the instructor and what they give for advice, and you’re literally practicing the skill that is going to serve you when you turn around and focus it on you. Once you can evaluate someone from a neutral space, then what happens is that experience, that skill that you learned is something that you can apply to yourself. So you’ll begin to more clearly see the things that you’re judging because you might judge yourself for doing something and then notice that you have that same thought when you’re watching somebody else. Or you might notice that you’re really forgiving watching everybody else and really harsh on yourself. And when you start to see more clearly the things that you are doing the same or different, you can begin to get a hold and understand that you get to choose what you want to keep doing and what you want to change. This is a process that I regularly do inside of my course and my one on one with my students. I do evaluations on live Zoom calls, and inside of my riding course, there is an archive of student videos that I’ve reviewed. And what this does is it gives everyone the opportunity to watch these student videos and hear what I have to say. And there are times that I say right at the beginning of the video, You need to watch this without the sound on. You need to watch this and make your own evaluation and then listen to my evaluation. So it’s very structured in there to be able to teach you how to evaluate. One student recently told me that she found watching these videos really comforting because she finally realized that what she was experiencing was common instead of feeling alone. Because the truth is, sometimes learning is a little bit messy and that’s okay. Here’s what another student, Ann, had to say. She wrote, Stacy, I also want to express gratitude to all of those who have shared videos for review. It is so much fun for me to witness their moments of breakthrough in learning. I’m filled with joy every time. They are inspiring. And I agree with Ann. When students raise their hands to be coached live or they send in videos to be reviewed, I realize that that student is stretching their comfort zone. I realize how much they benefit from it, and I realize how much the other students are also benefiting too. And that is pretty amazing.

Stacy Westfall: [00:25:14] In June, in my riding program, I’m going to be specifically teaching on how to improve your evaluation process. I’m going to be teaching students how to evaluate their rides even more effectively. And then in June, I’m bringing back a really popular bonus that I offered back in March, which is written coaching. And the written coaching is going to go perfectly with this evaluation process because it’s a place where students can submit questions anonymously and they can talk about the areas that they’re struggling with. And then the question is answered in written form, and the anonymous question and the answer are posted in the group so that, again, many students can benefit from the questions and answers. And I’ve decided that I’m going to bring it back again for June. So if you’re listening to the podcast and you want to take these concepts that you’ve been learning to a deeper level, come join me inside my courses. This is some of the stuff that we’re doing in June. Thanks to all of you for listening. Go out there, make videos of yourself and practice evaluating and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:26:31] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

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