Knowing "why" is almost as essential as knowing "how."
During lessons, we work so hard on the skills that we need to learn. We work on aids, timing, carrying ourselves, staying balanced, listening to the horse. The best instructors can coach us in terms of what to do and when. They can explain what we're supposed to feel, and what we should do between gaits, and where we need to position the circles.
Many riders learn do amazing things with their horses - while they are under the supervision of their instructor.
But there is so much more to riding.
Although the "hows" of riding are critical to success and, let's face it, allow us to stay on the horse in the first place - there is something to be said about the understanding and knowledge that completes the overall picture. Without knowing why we do things, we are left to achieving sporadic success when we ride on our own.
The major drawback to not knowing why is that there is always a gap left in the overall picture. We become reactive to stimuli. Rather than setting up a situation, we are always left second guessing and not knowing what to do next.
Why do we rise in the trot when the horse's outside front leg moves forward?
Why do we time our aids to specific moments of the horse's movement?
Why do we open our reins at that moment, but close them at another moment?
Why would we use a travers (haunches in)?
Why do we start lateral work with a leg yield?
I think we could formulate "why" questions for almost everything we learn in riding. In fact, there are probably why questions for everything we do with horses, including ground work, feeding, providing shelter, and even deciding on blanketing.
In my opinion, knowing why we do something is almost as important as knowing how to do it. Of course we need skill acquisition to be able to do something in the first place, but without knowing why, we will often be left unable to trouble shoot and resolve problems, or even prevent them in the first place.
The problem is that learning why can be tedious and time consuming. Most people want the sort of instant gratification that comes with doing. It can be confusing and difficult to sit still for a moment to try to understand why the how works. But it needs to be done.
How do you learn the why?
First, we need the type of instructor that will and can explain why. Then we can practice and make enough mistakes to experience why.
Second, we can read to fill in any knowledge gaps.
Third we can watch other riders and lessons.
Finally, we can stay open minded enough to learn from a multitude of sources - and the horses themselves.
Slowly, through repetition and experience, we accumulate enough knowledge to intrinsically know why we do what we do, at a moment's notice, especially while we are on the horse's back.
It is through these experiences that we can become independent riders, able to take what we learn and apply it to different situations.
How have you learned the "why" in riding? Comment below.
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