As equestrians, we are always (or should always be) on the lookout for good teachers we can learn from. As amateur equestrians though, we don’t always have the resources to afford the same high-end trainers many of the pros use. But there is one teacher I have found that so many equestrians overlook: the horse himself.
Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned were from the horses I rode. I’m not just talking about Moose. I’m talking about every horse I’ve every ridden, including – or especially – the ones I haven’t gotten along with.
Take Apache for example. I don’t talk about him much because our 4-year partnership was a disaster. I was still in my backyard rodeo, get-on-anything-that-bucks-rears-or-bolts phase. Besides teaching me to stick like glue through every stunt in the book and perfecting my (unplanned) flying dismount, Apache taught me a lot. Perhaps the most important lesson he taught me was that there is no shame in admitting that a horse isn’t the right match for you and getting a horse that is better suited to meet your needs isn’t the same as giving up. Mind you I needed that lesson reinforced a few more times, courtesy of Renegade and Tex before I fully grasp the concept, but no one ever accused me of being perfect.
A recent example is with my mare Moose. She is a very honest soul who takes care of me but doesn’t let me get away with anything. Still recovering from my last bout of seizures, I went for a light ride the other day. My riding has been very sporadic lately due to health concerns, so it wasn’t surprising that the ride was less than perfect. Moose was stiff through her transitions and balked at lateral movements on the right side.
It got bad enough that I was beginning to wonder if there was a pain issue of some kind. But I had checked her hooves and saddle fit before riding. I went over everything and there were no red flags. Long story short, the issue was with me, not her. My core was stiff. My apprehension from riding after the last round of awful seizures was getting the best of me. Once I loosened my core, she performed beautifully. She wasn’t perfect, but it was much better. I have no doubt the remaining problems were still with me, not her.
Now, I’m sure any competent trainer could have caught the problem and pointed it out. But a human trainer is not going to be there every single time you ride. You horse, on the other hand, is part of every riding session. It is just a matter of realizing what they are trying to tell you.
In my experience, many horses are willing to teach if only their humans would learn to listen. We spend so much time getting caught up in the latest trainers and techniques that we overlook the best trainer of them all: the very horse we are sitting on.
Photo by Bhakti2