The More I Think I Know, The More I Don’t Know
Every time I change trainers, which admittedly isn’t often, I realize how little I know about riding horses. When I moved to California, I had the (oh so silly) impression that I kind of knew my stuff. I mean, Simon and I had shown in all 3 rings, and I’d been riding a long time. I figured our limitations were more about finances, talent, and soundness (for both of us) than anything else.
Well, that was a pretty stupid belief system.
When my California trainer began picking apart my equitation and methods, it got me pretty down at first. After all, how many lessons have I had in life? How long have I been riding to have so many dramatic things wrong with me? I pouted a little, but mostly kept showing up and trying. Then things began to get better. I felt the difference. Simon felt amazing. We won more. And I began to realize how much more there was to know.
A few lessons in with my new trainer, I’m having similar feelings of “I know nothing.” But this time, none of the pouting.
I have a lot of flaws as a rider, but I am a diligent hacker. It’s pretty rare for me to toodle around with my reins on the buckle aka the hunter stereotype. Usually I make up some flat exercises (I very, very rarely jump on my own time and it’s not allowed outside of lessons at new barn anyway), and pick a theme of the day to work on. Stuff like upward transitions, opening up the trot, simple changes, etc. Overall, this is a good quality to have. But it also means I do a lot of flatwork on my own, and can let some bad habits run wild.
Dressage people will cringe here, but one of the latest bad habits I’ve allowed to flourish is an over-dependence on my inside rein. I use it to manufacture an inside bend that looks “pretty,” but my horse is crooked and not actually bent through his body. I think it started having such a green-as-grass horse who needed very clear and literal steering in the early days. But as time went on, I continued to baby him instead of treating him like a more trained horse. When he got pretty gate sour, it’s been suggested to me that he had a harder time understanding the outside rein blocking the bulge so I happily went back to pulling my inside rein. What I think was happening had more to do with my leg not supporting him properly, but that all doesn’t matter now. I won’t get into the nitty gritty, because frankly as much as I like to think about the nuances of riding… writing about them bores me.
Here are the takeaways from my last lesson:
- No inside rein! No. Baddy bad bad. I can lift it. But I cannot pull it. I cannot has inside rein. Inside rein only gets used with outside rein at the same time when he’s getting heavy (and with leg, ugh so much leg).
- Ugh riding is hard
- More leg
- I have to prepare for the inside bend well before my actual corner
- Did I mention I can’t use my inside rein?
We just kept things to walk/trot, because he spent the weekend without shoes after being a little prancy dancy for new farrier. Shoes come back on Monday. I’ll hack Tuesday, aka practice not using my inside rein, and another lesson Thursday where I will learn how much I don’t know about riding.
Unlike last time my entire belief system/knowledge about riding became undone with a new trainer, I’m not feeling down about it. Rather, I’m feeling very encouraged and optimistic about the future. I do think things will take longer than I hoped (don’t they always?) so I’m going to have to be extra super duper patient about my showing goals. Not a strength of mine. But it’s okay, we have time.
Let me leave you with a comparison of trots while I go off and finally bite the bullet on a Pivo so I can obsess over video for the rest of my riding days.
11 thoughts on “The More I Think I Know, The More I Don’t Know”
Oh I had this exact realization on my own just yesterday. And I say on my own but really, Trainer is constantly telling me to get off that inside rein! I just happened to be riding alone when the lightbulb finally went off!
I have a gigantic, green draft cross who takes so.much.leg that I don’t have, I revert to that damn inside rein.
I’m off to do some squats.
“I cannot has inside rein.” Lol I die! Same, girl, same.
Really nice comparison on the trots. It’s looking really nice!
lol this post title is so relatable. even worse — i’m finding out now that just bc i knew something *once* doesn’t mean i can still do it *now* LOL
So relatable. My coach has me use a neck rope for a bit every so often and it helps. You still have your reins in case of baby horse shenanigans, but hold the neck rope too as a reminder of where your hands and rein length should be and how much leg and seat you should really be using to steer. I seem to always be really wanting that inside rein, no matter how much better I think I’ve got each time 🙂
If you get a Pivo, you must blog about it!!! I got one for Christmas, and STILL haven’t been able to get the time/energy/motivation to get the darn thing figured out. Also, the joys of trying to get the Pivo to track a grey horse correctly…..just sayin……
I kinda love this about riding that it can never truly be mastered because there is always something to learn! It can be tough with baby horses transitioning from one mode of riding to another.
Different trainers pick up on and focus on different things. They also have different ways of explaining and also fixing things. What one doesn’t notice is glaringly obvious to another. We also all have different styles of riding and they may or may not work for each of our horses. It happens.
When I have asked trainers and people in the know for the blunt and honest truth- sometimes they are hesitant to give it because often people ask for it and then get all bent actually hearing it. I’m glad you’re not pouting about it. If nobody says anything we just keep riding in our rut of mediocrity and never know any different that it could be so much better. I have a wonderful coach from afar that doesn’t tell me things are wrong or bad, just that I need to do this instead and tells me ways to change things that result in huge differences I can feel or see.
That footing is beautiful. We should all be so blessed.
When I first started with my dressage coach (I had been riding my whole life at that point), we probably spent 6 or 7 lessons (at least) literally ONLY working on NO INSIDE REIN. NO TOUCHY. NO INSIDE REIN. STOP FLAPPING YOUR INSIDE REIN LIKE A SPASTIC CHICKEN (his actual words). I’ll be honest, I nearly cried. But it was life-changing!
I feel this post with every fiber of my being. Too bad I don’t know as much now as I knew as an eighteen year old (hahahah, right).
I also have an obsession with my inside rein. I pretty much need to be smacked with a whip every time I think about touching it.
This lifelong H/J chick has been taking Western lessons for the past few months and I’m here to tell you, it’s helped my ENGLISH riding! Oh yeah. No-touchy-da-face is a biiiiiiig deal in Western, along with bending via legs. And Trainer won’t let me have spurs yet that Mr. Horse respects. And he’s lazy. Cue me having to pony-kick the beast sometimes to keep him jogging! “It’s haaaard, I don’t waaaaanna,” he whines as he would much rather walk or trot regularly. But the turning part really has me thinking hard about leg to rein connections, and that’s carrying over to English. It’s been an interesting journey.
I should add that for the first three Western lessons I couldn’t even turn the horse right, a direction he doesn’t like very much… we almost ran into the wall a couple times when he just WOULD NOT listen to my left leg. I was the closest to tears I’ve ever been in a lesson in a very long time and felt like I was about five years old. But, Trainer was patient and I’ve come a long way in just a few months.
I know you are making progress. I think Poet looks lovely and in these videos your riding looks awfully nice, too! I can see the improvement between them as well.