Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Learning a new skill in riding can be pretty daunting. Not only do you need to coordinate your entire body (including the ever-pervasive 'core' of your body), but you also need to stay in balance while moving, in time, in partnership with the (much larger) horse that happens to be using his own feet while yours are dangling in mid-air! You get my drift....

So at best, it's not easy. When other people tell you that riding is all about the horse and not about the rider, you can be fairly sure that they have never sat on a horse to know what it really feels like. Even with the best horse, at the very least, the rider has to "get out of the way" and to do THAT can be a feat in itself.

Assuming that you have the most willing horse, it may be that your own body simply cannot put all the tiny components together at the same time, at the right time, because unfortunately, it's not only about the physical coordination of skill, it's also about timing within the moment of stride that makes it easiest for the horse to respond. And so communication breaks down even with the best interests in mind.

One of the first 'life lessons' that all of us riders learn from our horses is to persevere. Our mantra is "try, try again." "Keep at it." Maybe one of the repetitions will yield a wanted outcome. Maybe if you do it enough times, your horse will finally get it. Right?

Wrong.

Although repeating the aids and 'sticking with the program' is useful many times, there may come a day when you could repeat the exercise a thousand times to no avail - and end up frustrating both yourself and your horse.

So what are some alternatives?

- Change the topic. Go to something else, 'let it go', and come back to it later in the same riding session.

- Try again - just be sure to control your emotion on your second/third/fourth/etc. tries.

- Quit. Put it to rest. Be done with it. (Did I just say that??)

Yes - there is nothing wrong with 'giving up'. In my many (not saying quite how many!) years of riding, one thing the horses have explained to me is that they have no problem with dropping the subject today and picking it up again tomorrow.

Just make sure that you finish the ride on a good note. You do NOT have to finish on a 'perfect' note in regards to the skill you were building - you just need to go to something that makes you both happy and confident - and finish.

Then come back to it the next day. You'll find that your horse went and did his 'homework' and maybe, just maybe, your coordination (muscle memory) is a tiny bit better. Just keep at it - persevere not by drilling on and on, but by giving yourself permission to quit.

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16 Comments

  1. Agreed.My horse shared this NotToBeForgotten life lesson with me. That day, we both benefitted equally. In the years after, I spread the wealth, applying it not only to riding but to so much of life, to the benefit of friends and family.

  2. Love your blog! You are helping myself and my children be better riders, and stewards to their horses! Thank you! 🙂

  3. One evening I was having one of those rides when I felt as if I couldn’t even post properly. My horse was well behaved but I wanted to end the lesson early. My trainer insisted that I keep at it. Not 3 minutes later my horse spooked, spun, and bolted. I got a lesson in the laws of physics. I took out 2 boards in the fence on my way to the dirt. No doubt my horse sensed my unease and responded accordingly. I wasn’t hurt beyond bruises but the incident almost caused my trainer’s hair to turn white. She vowed to let me get off the next time I feel that way.

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