The most important journey I am on as a rider is learning to trust myself.
Trust that I can keep my center of gravity above the horse’s center of gravity.
Trust that I know what to do to improve the horse and trust that my instincts are correct.
The former I learned through lots of seat work, of riding without stirrups and having my bio mechanics picked apart and put back together, but mostly through a many almost-flying lessons (and few flying lessons).
The latter I began to learn from a sales horse I was assigned to ride. He was a small tour horse and one of the first FEI horses I got to ride. But boy, was it a steep learning curve.
Up until I rode that horse, many people had told me I was an ineffective rider.
That gelding would mess with me.
I would ask him to do something, say a half pass. He’d start out fine, but a few strides in he’d test the boundaries.
He would sit on my leg. He would stop going sideways. He’d lose the forward. He’d grab the bit.
I hate to say it– most of the time he had me.
I’d apply my aids on to correct him. He’d give a half-hearted response, or barely one at all. I took it.
I settled for 5s and 6s, content just to be doing the movement *at all* (again, one of my first FEI schoolmasters, here). He’d thought he’d hit the jackpot.
Until the day my instructor decided to teach me half-steps on him. She assisted me at first, and he gave them at first. But as she stepped away and had me try them on my own– that’s when things went sideways.
He sat on my leg. I kicked, but couldn’t keep him connected over his topline. He trotted off.
I kept him over his topline. He sat on my leg. I kicked. That 17.1h gelding went straight up, high-ho silver style on me.
The very next day I learned to ride effectively.
I learned that to be successful with this horse, I needed to provide mental stimulation, not just physical exercise. I learned that I needed to ride him at the top of HIS game, rather than at the top of mine.
I learned to focus on the response he gave when I applied my aids and not settle for half-hearted responses. I learned to ride pro-actively, to change things every few strides so he stayed on his toes.
Most of all, I learned I needed to trust myself and rely on my intuition. I learned I need to sense when he needed change and where I need to test HIS limits.
The voice on the ground didn’t always have all of the answers. But I do, if I listen and trust myself.
How much do YOU trust yourself?