At one point or another, many of us riders – adult amateurs in particular – find ourselves trainerless and going it alone. Maybe you moved and haven’t found a new coach yet. Maybe you’re just getting back into riding, found a fuzzy pony of ambiguous origin, and now he’s sitting in your back yard while you try and try to swing a leg over without dying. Maybe you got kicked out of your last barn for that incident with the thing.
Or maybe you’re at a small barn without a trainer, and an occasional trainer comes by when there’s enough people wanting lessons. This is where I found myself a few years ago.
I had just moved to Texas, and I had only started eventing a year prior to that, having come from Hunterland where I did the Teeny-Tiny OMG adult division at local shows. And did I mention I have historically been a Certified Weenie? Clearly, it was a super smart idea to go without regular lessons. (Did you detect the sarcasm font? Sometimes it’s subtle.)
So there I was, winging it, with by barnmates sometimes saying, “Maybe you should….” And I would sometimes take their advice, and sometimes be too intimidated to take their advice. Particularly concerning jumping. And then I’d take the occasional lesson that would only serve to reinforce the fact that DEAR GOD, WOMAN, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF? I think we adult ammies should be made to wear tags (like kids do) that say “If found riding and training alone, please call USEF and report them immediately for referral to the nearest trainer.”
So I did a lot of flatwork and the occasional jump. And by “flatwork,” I mean I tried to make my horse turn left when he didn’t want to, tried to not let him rip my arms off, and I occasionally succeeded. Yay, me? I’d give myself side-eye if I could look back on my three-years-ago self. Seriously, 2015 Wendy, you’re an idiot.
I was finally convinced to haul over with my barn owner and friend Felicia for a lesson with who is now my current trainer. I think Felicia’s intention was to either convince me I needed ALL the help, or to possibly just leave me there and lose my number. Or leave my horse there, actually, and pry me away. I’d go 50/50 on those odds.
So I hopped on to warm up, and my horse started to run away with me at the trot, then the walk. Bulging his neck and blowing me off. I yelled out, for all the county to hear, “GOD BLESS AMERICA, YOU SANDWICH BISCUIT.” OK, that’s not what I said. But you get it. (This trainer is a four-star rider, folks. Yep.)
Trainer Angela asked her working student to go get her helmet and boots. She got on, assessed, and within two minutes was basically like, “Yeah, your horse needs 60 days, and you need like 500.” OK, again, she didn’t say that, but I know. I know.
I am willing to admit defeat. I, like many adult ammies, need constant supervision to prevent shriveling cajones and the deterioration of skills, to keep me progressing, and someone to tell me just to buck up and do it already. Because I have 10 excuses for everything.
So, from that moment on, I have never tried going it alone. I am the adult ammy version of a toddler on a wrist leash. And I know I’m not alone.
Here’s to you all of you who need supervision, enforcers, eyes on the ground, and also a set of eyes that can roll when you make those 10 excuses about nothing. I raise my glass to you.