Happy New Year!!
Winter has officially arrived in New York. After a fairly mild and calm December, January has started out cold and icy. It’s Sunday, and we are getting hit with freezing rain and sleet so no barn for me today.
Last night scrolling through one of the many horse groups I belong to on Facebook, someone posted this image. I want everyone to stop and read this statement out loud, shout it from the rooftop, let it really sink in.
I’ve talked about learning how to speak horse for years, and that it’s truly a work in progress. Learning to communicate with your horse is something that never stops. I’ve watched so many riders blaming the horse for not doing what the rider is asking when the fault lays with the rider.
My current hurdle I’m trying to overcome is getting Copper to pick up the correct lead going in his harder direction at the canter. At first, I was having such difficulties getting it right, I thought perhaps there was something wrong with him, like maybe he was in discomfort somewhere, so I asked my trainer to hop on him to see if it was him or me. Well, no surprise here, the issue is me. I’m not giving him the proper cues. The signals I’m sending out with my body position and seat are full of static and he is doing the best he can with what I’m telling him.
I find myself apologizing to Copper pretty regularly, in a tone that is full of love and compassion. I mean he is giving me his all and I’m the one dropping the ball. But that is what this process is all about. That is what makes us a team. There are things I’m really good at communicating properly and he struggles to learn it and I’m right there with him every step of the way, it is a true partnership. This way of thinking is fairly new for me.
When I look back at when I first started to learn how to ride 6 years ago, I was such a hot mess lol. I remember it taking what felt like years just to learn how to post while trotting. I also remember how when I started to get just a little bit of experience, skill and knowledge under my belt, I felt like I knew it all. Any time Alfie wasn’t doing exactly what I asked for, I put blame on him. Statements like “why won’t he just trot”, or “why doesn’t he do this”, “Alfie why can’t you be like (insert name of any other horse in the arena).” I imagine that those statements are pretty common place with riders but how many actually admit it?
My thought process changed when I started to learn how to better communicate with Alfie. So many of our issues we had with riding were totally my fault, and that made me feel like the worst rider. But worse than that, I had let my partner down – but he never gave up on me – something I’m so incredibly grateful for.
Well, this diary entry turned into something I didn’t expect, a true confessional, an admittance of ignorance, attitude and fault. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, tons of them, and I take 100% responsibility for making every single one of them. Having no knowledge about something isn’t dangerous, having just a little bit and shutting out learning further is what’s dangerous. I spent about 3 years putting the fault on our riding struggles solely on Alfie. At the time, I knew I didn’t know everything but for whatever reason I felt like I did.
I say it all the time, riding isn’t easy. This sport isn’t easy. Horses aren’t easy. If it was easy, everyone who rides would be a gold medal winner at the Olympics. This is a journey of learning. Whether you’ve been around horses for 6 years or 60 years, the learning never stops, unless you choose it to. My Alfie never gave up on me, even though at times I gave up on him. Again, I admit my faults, but those faults and mistakes I made forced me to take 1000 steps backwards to get it right with him. He waited patiently for me to get my s*it together, and when I finally did, we had the best 2 years of riding before his retirement. Those lessons Alfie taught me are there every time I ride Copper. ❤️🐴