"Always end on a good note." I have heard that advice repeated again and again. While it is excellent advice, many people(myself included) struggle to follow it. So, what does it really mean to end a lesson on a good note? What if you can't see any improvement in the lesson you are trying to teach, how can you still end on a good note? And the hardest one for me: How do you avoid over-doing a lesson to end at a favourable time? The first problem we have in finding a positive place to end a lesson is that we are looking at the lesson in human terms. We want to see tangible improvement in the horse's behaviour or increased skill in performing a task, but those things are not important to the horse. A horse does not care if it has learned to yield its haunches and forequarters with equal lightness, or made a nice halt-canter transition, or any of the other myriad of nit-picky tasks we grade horses on. These tasks humans invent for horses are not vital to a horse's survival and therefore difficult for horses to understand. What a horse does care about is finding comfort and safety. When a horse feels safe and comfortable they then it will want to play, figure out puzzles, and interact with their environment in new ways. Seeking comfort and the desire for entertaining stimulation are the reasons why horses do all the crazy exercises we come up with for them. They can only understand a that we have ended the lesson "on a good note" if they are feeling relaxed. If the horse finally executes a move correctly and you end the lesson, if the horse was not calm and engaged when they did it, they are not likely to remember what was correct from the human's view. Being sure that the horse is calmer at the end of the lesson is a good way to be sure that you have found what the horse will see as a positive stopping point, regardless of whether or not the task was done perfectly or not. The best time to end a lesson would of course be when the horse improves in its ability while gaining relaxation at the same time. Within a lesson there are many good stopping points. Transitions from one exercise to another should be considered a stopping point as you are quitting one task to start another. Isolating the exercises by giving your horse a rest between activities helps them retain the lesson. The best time to switch tasks is when the horse has shown improvement, not perfection! You can come back to the same task several times in a lesson or on another day, but breaking it up with rests and other exercises will keep your horse motivated and not feeling drilled. A saying I love is: "ride for tomorrow". Look for tiny improvements that you can build on in your next lesson. Getting it done exactly right in this lesson isn't important, but stopping at a place where your horse feels like they understand and have been successful is. Even the best trainers can have lessons turn into unmitigated disasters! There are times that no matter what you do the lesson does not improve; the horse won't do what is being asked and does not get calmer. In that case the time to stop is before the lesson spirals out of control. If it appears that things are not going to get any better it is preferable to end the lesson than ingrain the horse with negative associations concerning the exercise. Still, quitting the lesson at a favourable point is important. If that means quitting an exercise or lesson to stand with your horse while they graze, or taking them back to the barn for grooming, it is still ending on a positive note. At the end of the day, parting as friends is the best note you can end on with your horse.