September 4, 2018

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

Megan wrote a post last week about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.  I started thinking through it especially in terms of the context of showing a ton last summer and not at all this summer, and I thought it deserved more than a comment.

I am in no way motivated by showing, but I love to show.  I know that doesn't make a ton of sense, but hear me out:
PC: Connor's breeder (2017)

One reason I love to show is to get confirmation (or not) that I'm on the right track (or not).  For example, as of these past two weeks, I'm pretty sure I finally have a medium trot.  But I haven't been up the levels before, and I don't know if what I'm feeling is what a USDF judge is looking for.  I can't wait to find out, honestly, even if I'm wrong.

And I am wrong a lot.  This is not a lengthened trot. (2017)
PC: Connor's breeder

Showing also gives me a guideline for what comes next.  I'm further with Connor than I've ever been with any horse, and without a guide for "once we have this, next comes that", I wouldn't have any sense of a roadmap.

Progress is hard to quantify on the day-to-day scale, but you can definitely see it over time.  (2012)
PC: Austen

I also love that showing is an event with my friends.  Every so often someone on the CoTH forums gets on their high horse about AAs who ride at one level their whole lives with seemingly no motivation to move up.  That's definitely not me, but I say more power to those AAs for paying their entry fees and helping keep shows alive for the rest of us.

If all you get out of showing is that you enjoy dropping $500 for a weekend of drinking booze water in the barns with your friends and not getting pushed out of your comfort zone, you do you, and thank you for your generous contribution to the sport of Dressage.

(I mean, I enjoy drinking booze water with friends just as much as the next guy, BUT I get more out of showing than just that!)
My favorite part of showing.  Probably Connor's too.  (2017)

I grew up running (people) cross-country, a sport in which your placement in the pack and the ribbon you end up with don't matter nearly as much as setting a Personal Record (PR) time.  I would look down at my watch mid-race, realize I was short of being on track to set a PR, and push myself to go faster, put myself in more pain, and the only motivation was an intrinsic desire to set a record no one would know about except me and my coach - but that didn't make it matter any less.

I was intrinsically motivated to fix this lower leg! (2015)
PC: Connor's breeder

I feel the same way about Dressage.  My motivation is all of the above, plus the desire to set a PR score, and also the desire to feel those cool feelings.  My motivation is wanting to ride a flying change someday, to do a canter half pass, to someday be ready for a double bridle.  And of course there's the ever-present desire to share Welsh Cobs and Connor's breeder's program with the world.

Best friend first, path to Dressage success second (2017)
PC: My mom
This is why I didn't mind moving to the Open division to take the ME sponsorship a couple years ago: I'm more motivated by the scores than how I place.  I'm not declaring for Regionals, or submitting for horse/rider performance awards (even though Connor would have his at First if I'd been a PM at the time).  I chased year end awards in 2016 and that was kinda fun, but I feel very "been there done that" about ever doing that for the sake of it again.

The ribbons are sweet, but I'd rather earn them by accident than focusing on them.

So, I would definitely say my motivation is intrinsic.  Probably to my detriment, because I don't have any concrete goals of "must ride GP by the time I'm 50" or anything, but at least for my first time up the levels, I'm just taking it all in and seeing how far we can go.

Having fun! (2017)
PC: My mom


  1. I love your attitude. I'm going to secretly steal it! I try to have the same mindset. I'm an AA with big goals-but i sometimes get caught up in not achieving those goals in the time line I think I should be able to. I don't like to struggle for too know..first world problems. I'm excited for you to keep having all the fun at shows and taking what you get out of those scores!

  2. Holy shit the change in you and Conner is AMAZING

  3. Having fun often gets lost in the pursuit for ribbons so being able to keep that portion concrete is just as important as moving up IMO

  4. I feel very much the same way you do. It’s fun to show and I want to do more of them but the ribbons or winning aren’t what motivate me :)

  5. I'm going to make my person read this. I have such a hard time explaining to him why I like to show etc. Thank you for this!