It seems like everywhere you turn, someone has a different idea about what you should do when you ride.
There might even be the time when the SAME person tells you to do two completely opposite things during one situation.
Let's take your coach for instance. One day, she says you need more leg to get the horse going better. Another day she says to half-halt more often and slow the legs down. Bend more here, straighten up there.
Make up your mind already! How is it that so many variations apply to the same outcome?
Obviously, the last thing we want to know is that there are seemingly endless variations to a multitude of skills that we have to learn if we want to be effective riders for our horses.
But when it comes to horses, the only "truth" is that there are many truths. It is our calling as riders to figure out which one works when and why. The learning is never-ending and even when you think you know it all, another horse comes into your life to bring you back down to earth (hopefully not literally).
Here are 7 reasons why "it depends" might be exactly the right answer to your situation!
1. Your horse might be very accommodating.
When your horse works at his best, the sky is the limit! You can do almost anything you can think of - with very little effort coming from you! These moments teach you how much you can do and how the aids combine to make everything come together. Your aids can whisper and you can float along almost as if you aren't there. Your horse's responses might come easier, and he also appreciates the harmony.
2. Your horse might be excited.
An excited horse may need more guidance, simpler and quicker aids. The quiet suggestive aids from yesterday may not be adequate if the horse is distracted or unresponsive in some manner. You might need to seek his attention and work harder to make more basic requests. You might not be able to do the intricate moves from yesterday simply because his frame of mind is different.
3. The weather conditions might be different from the day before.
Almost all horses are affected in some way by temperature or precipitation. Riding the same horse on a hot muggy day or in pouring rain or in freezing cold temperatures might require different strategies. Discovering your horse's preferred weather condition makes the ride easier but working in less than ideal conditions is also necessary if you want to stay on a regular program. You have to learn how to ride the horse during various conditions.
4. You might not be as coordinated as your last ride.
You might be the inconsistent one. Maybe you had a rough day at school or work and you come to the riding session tense and frustrated. Maybe you have a cold and your reactions are slow and laboring. If you can be sensitive to your own emotional and physical state, you can take steps to counter them once you get on your horse's back.
5. You might be trying something new.
Whenever we step out of our comfort zone, we step into insecurity and frustration. It is perfectly normal to go backward before you move beyond your current level of expertise. While you try to speed up/slow down/quieten the aids, you discover that you lose some of the mastery you once had.
The same happens with the horse if you are trying to teach him something new. Awareness of what needs to be done during the confused moments is the ticket to making it through the learning curve, both for yourself as well as your horse.
6. Your situation might be different from someone else's.
You go to a clinic and watch as someone learns or develops her skill during the ride. You come home and apply the same strategies and for whatever reason, things don't go the same way. In horseback riding, it is often unfair to compare yourself to others in the sense that everything impacts your and your horse's performance. By knowing the specific factors that go into your situation, you can make better gains.
7. Training level causes variations.
Both you and your horse's background and skill impact the next steps you can take. More often than not, you will discover that you have to go back to the basics and develop them before you can go ahead with higher expectations. There is nothing wrong with identifying a missing building block and working on that before you try to do something more difficult. Learning things step by step is a valuable and safe approach to riding.
I hear people's frustration when they ask a question and the answer isn't black and white or easily predictable.
But understanding the variables in riding is the key to knowing that it is perfectly fine to learn many strategies that will invariably end in the same goal. And when someone asks, "What do I have to do when...?"
The answer might just be, "It depends!"
When have you had to change your riding plan because something unexpected came up? Let us know in the comments below.
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If you enjoyed the above post, you might also like to check these out:
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How Do You Develop “Feel” in Horseback Riding? Developing ‘feel’ in horseback riding doesn’t have to be an impossible dream! If you can ride with feel, you will be able to respond immediately to your horse’s needs.
Demystifying “Contact” in Horseback Riding: Does “contact” have other-wordly connotations? Here is why effective contact is within reach of the average rider.
From a Whisper to a Scream: How Loud Should Our Aids Really Be? Should we be “loud” in our aids, or should we be working as softly as we can in hopes that our horse can respond to lighter and more refined aids?