"Riding is simple, but not easy!"

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

My long-time dressage instructor would say this when I would get stuck in a plateau or feel like I would never be able to coordinate my left and right and top and bottom! 

It's Simple!

As riders, we become inspired and motivated while watching the equestrian disciplines during the Olympics.

Hold your breath as the cross-country eventers fly high over the step-up jumps that conceal what lays beyond. Marvel at the tight turns that the jumper horses make on their approach to higher-than-your-head-height poles and proceed to launch their great bodies over. Be amazed at the almost imperceptible communication displayed by the dressage horses and their riders as they literally dance across the ring with grace and gravity-defying strength.

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Yet, back at the ranch, you find yourself frustrated that you are having difficulty communicating one thing or another, or feeling hopeless that something will never come together.

It's Complicated!

It is precisely during these moments that we have to keep in mind the true depth of what we are trying to achieve with the horse.

Let's face it - *all* we want is for the horse to do what we want, when we want, where we want, with suppleness and strength!

(Tweet this if you like the sarasm!)

When it comes down to it, if you truly understand how those Olympic riders perform (at such high levels of achievement in tandem with their incredible four-legged partners), you know what you are watching is akin to a small miracle.

Everything has to come together at the right time.

To the onlooker, it all looks so easy.

Yes, the good riders make it seem effortless.

But take a closer look, and you will notice the sweat dripping from their brows, their lungs heaving as they regulate their breath post-performance, and their own wonderment as they realize that their goals have become reality.

Now try it yourself!

It is definitely not as easy as it looks.

After some riding experience with our own horses, we begin to realize that riding can be complicated. We discover that the horse has his own motivations, abilities, desires and work ethic. No matter how you slice it, as riders, we have to work with our horses, developing their weaknesses, playing with their strengths, keeping them happy and enthusiastic.

You know you are on the right track when things become difficult. The more you develop your ability to communicate effectively to the horse through your body, the more complicated the technical aspects become.

This is where you develop a deeper understanding of the chasm of difference between "simple" and "easy". Yes, it is simple to get a horse to move in an uphill manner, but maybe not as easy as you may have originally thought!

Where do you stand on the "easy" vs. "simple" concept?


If you haven't already seen this video, be sure to check this (now legendary) ride out. She does it all without saddle or bridle! It's picture proof that riding is simple! 😉

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  1. When I try it I notice the talent, the intense training of riding many horses for many years, a great coach at your side several or at least one day a week, the great horse (versus the great horse for me) that I all miss.
    Yet, I have such a great time training, trying, developing, riding, etc with my horse, that when I close my eyes, I can almost feel the same sensation. It is a great sport, you never stop learning.

  2. Whoa! This post sumarizes exactly where I’m at in my riding riding right now.

    Achieving a level on consistency while riding your horse up into contact in a training bit. Then switching to a regular thickness bit. Simple, but not easy. I am back to searching for the right combination of hand/leg to get that contact consistently again.

    My coach always sets up jumping exercises that are simple but not easy. For example, jumping a combination of verticals on a bending line. Simple, but not easy. It’s hard to find the right track and the ring striding.

    Great post! I’m looking forward to more discussion.

  3. Wha a great article. Thank you.

    From my perspective-that is of someone who is, SIGH, still struggling to get the basics of my position at a walk and trot, Stacy’s ride is amazing and brought me to tears. Someday, I hope to be able to feel and experience even a smidgen of that. In the mean time, I will keep riding and smiling because I love horses.

    Only one disappointing note regarding Stacy’s ride, I wish she was wearing a helment. Her ride was so fantastic and probably inspiring to the oodles and oodles of people who have seen the video. I feel she could have made such an important statement on riding safely. Anyone can have a fall. ANYONE can have a fall that severly injures them or worse kills them. Above all else, in my opinion, safety should be first.

    I am definitely an advocate of wear a helment the first time and every time.