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.