So I figured I'd roll a few different phrases in here, all dealing with numbers, and explain their meaning.
The 2% rule: This is absolutely universal, and it always makes me giggle. A friend of mine, way, WAY back shed this little bit of wisdom on me, and I've found it to be all-encompassing - true for anything one might encounter. The 2% rule states that, for any given problem, you must be at least 2% smarter than whatever it is you're dealing with, in order to find a solution to said problem.
Funny, and yet, true. Am I right?
The deeper meaning to this where horsemanship is concerned, is that for any given problem we're having (with horses, often our problem lies in communication), the answer is more simple than we might think, and it's usually right in front of us -- if we're able to take a step back from ourselves and observe for a moment. The biggest mistake I see the average rider making is one of timing - they didn't step in early enough to correct whatever is leading to their problem, or their thoughts are running at such an erratic pace that they don't notice when the horse had a different thought until it's too late.
This is where I tell my students, "slow your thoughts down; you can't make things right by moving faster here."
and often doesn't require a drastic change on our part. Rather, all we need to do to get closer to the things we're looking for is to make small changes or additions. An example might be, you're working on turning your horse a certain way, and he keeps washing out, so the turn isn't as clean as you'd like it to be. Well, that doesn't mean you need awhile different approach, just just a slight change. This is where I might take a pause, see what I notice and what part I want to fix, and when I start again, I'll make one or two small adjustments to my aids (add a little, or maybe turn down a little), then reassess and see if I'm closer to the picture I'm trying to create.
Look for places where you want to improve, and make small adjustments to reach your goal.
The 85% Rule:
This is my progress rule, and it holds true for both horses and riders. How do you know when you (or your horse) are ready to move on to something more difficult, or maybe for adding speed to a movement you've been practicing? When you're doing it well 85% of the time that day. Think about it - 75% isn't consistent enough to ask either of you for increased difficulty, and getting it right 100% of the time is completely unrealistic (and will leave both of you frustrated and stuck).
But at about 85%, you and your horse not only understand the movement, how to get it and make adjustments, but now you're doing it well enough that adding a little more difficulty will actually help you improve! Can you see what that might look like, maybe in regards to something you and your equine partner are working on?
For example, when we begin learning our routines for drill team, much of our early practice is at the trot; once the riders learn the maneuvers and the pattern well enough to be safe and reasonably accurate (maybe, 85% accurate?), we'll begin to ride the routine at the canter - at which point the drill we were riding beautifully at the trot goes completely to hell in a handbasket. So we learn what parts of the routine need more finesse, we'll do more trotting, and continue to add canter work along the way. But the point is, we were ready to take it to the next level! And over time our canter practice gets better because we challenge ourselves when we're ready. And when we're ready (85% ready), then the challenge might be formidable, but it is NOT impossible.