Wednesdays are my favorite days. In the mornings I do housework and work from home things, and then in the afternoons I go out to the farm for my riding lessons. Why riding lessons? Aren’t I a professional trainer? Yes I am, and one of my core values is education. (Funny coming from someone who hated school, you never know where life will take you!) If there is one single theme I have learned through all these years of equine education, it’s that there is always more to learn.
It used to be a source of misguided pride for me that I’d never had a formal riding lesson. I was a pretty good rider in any case … in a western saddle. Since I’ve been training and especially after I got bucked off of Blue, I realized there were some holes in my riding that needed filled in. So I decided learning English was the way to go for two reasons: 1. We have a lot of English riders in Colorado! It was becoming more apparent over time that one of the biggest holes in my experience was that I didn’t know how to help my clients who rode English because I had no relatable experience with it. and 2. English riding instructors seemed to go into more detail on the technical ins and outs of riding than typical non-competition western instructors.
As I said, I’m a pretty good rider .. In a western saddle. Once my instructor stuck my butt in an English saddle it was like learning to ride all over again. A western saddle gives you a lot of grace. There are lots of handles and spots to grab should things start going south. Your leg position differs and doesn’t change too much on it’s own, riding one handed has been my natural riding style forever. The whole process has opened my eyes to how much I relied on a saddle to stay in place.
If you follow me you know I did a few bareback lessons to get my confidence back after my tumble, even riding bareback felt more secure than sitting in the itty bitty saddle with my knees up to my ears with no “Oh Shit” bars anywhere. I couldn’t canter with stirrups for the first few cantering lessons, I fell back on my bareback experience and dropped the stirrups to feel secure.
It’s been several months now, and even though it may sound like not a lot of fun it’s honestly the highlight of my week. I love the process of learning and growing as a rider and I can tell you without doubt, I am a better rider for it already. Learning to hone my feel in the saddle, when am I on the right lead, when am I too tight in my body and bouncing all over, it’s all great experience. I owe many thanks to all the lesson horses who give me so much grace while also teaching me that if I don’t do the right thing in the right way, they are disinclined to acquiesce to my request.
The best part of lessons has been, in spite of sometimes having to overcome some fear or lack of confidence, my love of riding has been rekindled. There is not much in life that is more invigorating and joyful than cantering on the back of a horse, even if I’m having to concentrate really hard to keep it going correctly, it still fills me with happiness. There was a time not too long ago, where I was ready to give up riding. There was a time that I hated what I was doing. These days, I am back to being most myself on the back of a horse. These days I can’ get enough of it. Even Molly, much to her chagrin I’m sure, has been back in the arena for a few minutes of riding most days, honestly she’s even been pretty willing and amenable to stroll around with me.
Moral of this story, is never stop learning. I am constantly amazed at all the intricacies of riding, training, and horsemanship that pop out of the woodwork as things I don’t know. There is always more to learn and improve and grow. Constant and never ending improvement in the things that you love will never steer you wrong.