Riding to your own tune

Being free to decide what type of rider you are and what you want to do, no judgment, no expectations and the only feedback that counts is that of your horse.

How good does that sound?

Well, it's more achievable than you think.

Ok, let’s open this can of worms.

We live in a world where other people’s opinions seem to count more than our own. In this world we try to fit in, we want to be accepted and we want to be acknowledged. But to what expense? More often to the expense of our own happiness.

I have to be honest and put up my hand too, I have been guilty.

  • “I should school my horse instead of just riding down the road which is what I feel doing.”
  • “I have to go to this competition because I’ve entered,”
  • “I should at least walk, trot and canter at every ride otherwise I didn’t really do anything.”

We all have a lot of shoulds and not enough wants.

For a moment, let’s put all this stuff aside and ask yourself, what makes you happy?

What is it that you love? And what is it that your horse loves?

Whenever I give lessons, there are a couple of rules that all the riders who come to me need to know.

  1. Every rider needs to take a big breath out before getting on the horse.
  2. When they get on, they take a moment to simply enjoy the view because there is no better view than the one through the horse's ears.
  3. We stand still, breath a little and check in with the horse.
  4. And at the end of the ride when the rider gets off they have to pay the horse. Pats, cuddles and ideally carrots and apples.

That’s it. That’s the rules. What happens in between is different each time.

My philosophy is that just because you sit on a horse, it does not mean that you have to go anywhere.

In fact I have had my best lessons standing still. 

About 20 years ago I had a little mare who I’d had issues with. She was built upside down and contact was a real struggle for her. I had the pleasure to have two back-to-back lessons with Richard Weiss, an amazing coach. In the first lesson I stood still, holding a contact and just waited. Richard told me that if the horse wasn’t accepting a contact in the walk, trot and canter there was no point walking, trotting and cantering. Makes sense!!!!

So, we stood still and we waited. He told me that if it took 10 min, it would take 10 min and if it took ½ hour it took ½ hour and if it took the entire lesson it would take the entire lesson.

It took the entire lesson and I remember thinking “man is this guy patient!”

After 55 min she all of a sudden gave to the contact. There was no stress, no battle, no arguments just consistent, quiet persistence and in the end it was like she said “Oh this is what you want??!!” There was not a single sweaty hair on her, she just needed time to think. Within 2 weeks after this lesson we had contact in walk, trot and canter.

Why am I telling you this you ask? Because it taught me a very valuable lesson.

There is no such thing as an expectation. We humans have expectations, our horses don’t.

They have needs, to be fed and watered, to have shelter and to be treated fairly without harm. Whenever I give my horses the option if they want to be schooled or stay in the paddock and eat grass, the schooling seldom wins.

I am not saying that they hate being ridden but they certainly prefer eating.

So, if you could do with your horse whatever you wanted, what would you do?

  • If it is just sitting in the paddock with him/her, then do that.
  • If you like riding but you prefer to only walk, then do that.
  • If you love schooling and competing, then do that.

Make sure you check in with your horse from time to time, let him/her have a voice too and then enjoy.

Don’t let others dictate to you what you should and shouldn’t be doing, trust your self and ride to your own tune.

Happy riding everyone!