I’ve ridden green horses for so long, I’ve nearly forgotten what it feels like to ride something with an education.
As a poor college grad, green horses was all I could afford for a very long time. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned some things the hard way, but logging all those miles on fresh, young horses gave me the confidence I needed to bring along a nice, young horse for myself… when the time came.
And that’s what I did. I took an off-track flunkie and restarted him by myself. We hit some snares along the way, where I was lucky to enlist the occasional help of a quality trainer and good friends who’ve been there, done that. We picked up some tools of the trade from clinicians when there was a little extra money in the bank account. But I’ve gotten my horse to where he is today without being in a committed training program. As an adult amateur hunter rider, I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment.
Recently, however, I realized I’ve hit my limit.
It was a hard pill to swallow at first, that in order to reach the goals I wanted for us, I could no longer rely on just myself.
Riding on my own all this time, with only the once-in-a-while corrective eyes of a trainer meant I’d picked up some bad habits. Some of the bad habits were mental – like getting over the fear of putting the jumps up. Others were fitness related – I needed someone to push me to get where I needed to be. But most of all, I needed a trainer to tell me it was time to do less, and for my horse to do more.
I’m a devout micro-manager (hey – wasn’t it obvious when I said adult ammy hunter rider?). And as the jumps go up, it’s time for my horse to require less lifting/kicking/nagging from me so I can focus more on myself. That’s something I haven’t done in a really long time.
For example, somewhere along the way I’ve developed this intense, never forgiving, hardened grip in my left hand. I hold onto my left rein like it’s the emergency break, making straightness nearly impossible for my horse. No matter what I do – I can’t seem to let go of it. It’s like the “pat your head, rub your tummy” conundrum: my brain knows I should let go, but physically, I can’t will my left hand to do it.
This is where the trainer comes in.
There are no quick fixes for the longstanding habits I’ve developed. It’s going to take months of time to unravel them. I feel like a wet noodle when I ride now, completely unconfident in my once proud ability, as the trainer tweaks my position here, and my hands there. But it’s all adding to the next step in my riding career with this specific horse.
My horse has done his job so far. Now it’s time for me to do mine. And the first step in doing so is admitting that yeah, I’m the problem. I’m the one getting in the way.
While it’s admirable to have gotten this far with this horse on my own, it’s also rewarding to be back with a committed trainer. Our sport isn’t a “team” one in the traditional sense, but it certainly has a strong sense of community. And I’ve missed that.