A lot of the time a problem stems from the rider! This is one of the things a lot of us, as riders, seem to overlook. It becomes so easy to think that the horse isn’t listening or that they just refuse to do what we want them to when in all reality its not the horse at all.
This was a concept that kind of hit me upside the head one day. I was riding a lovely TB named Monti, and I was having problems keeping him straight, down the left side of the ring. He kept drifting in towards the center. I would ask him to move back to the rail and he would, but before long we were drifting in again. Now he was an inexperienced horse. He was started late (around 5 if I remember right) and he had only been going a solid 6 months or so, so I just chalked it up being a bit unbalanced.
Later that week, I had a lesson on their mare Tess, a beautiful Friesian mare. Wouldn’t ya know it, going to the right she would drift to the rail sometimes to the point where my knee would meet the stone fence (talk about rough on the pants and my knee).
It wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized my horse Cash always drifted in towards the center of the ring when going to the left. Just like Monti. Thats when it hit me. There was no way 3 different horses were having relatively the same problems. The problem was not the horses balance and education…it was mine! Thats where I began really focusing on not only my horse but myself! Its a struggle every day but ya know what? I see improvements all the time! Eventually it will all become muscle memory!
Why is it so easy to blame the horse and forget probably one of the biggest factors the RIDER? Horses are remarkably balanced and agile by themselves. Watch a horse being Long Lined (The Spanish School of Riding does some awesome demos) or even just good old lunging. The horse easily preforms the maneuvers. Now add a rider to the equation and it’s ALOT more work for the horse. Make that rider unbalanced and it becomes nearly impossible for the horse to elegantly preform any tasks.
(if you want to try how it feels to add a “rider” do a few exercises then throw on a 35-50 pound back pack and try to repeat the same exercises. Then once your good at that try with an unbalanced “rider”. Have a friend behind you as you redo the maneuvers and have them randomly push or pull on one side or another…. not nearly as easy if not impossible to complete the maneuvers isn’t it?)
We are the biggest obstacle a horse has to over come. Horses are very willing and forgiving animals. They will try their hardest to do what they are ask (ok 9 times out of 10) but if we are unknowingly impeding them, then we are punishing them for doing what we ask and then punished twice as much if they can not do it and we get frustrated and ask more and more forcefully.
As a Equestrian, if a problem is recurring or there is no progress don’t be afraid of sitting down and evaluate yourself as a rider. Ask a friend or trainer. A lot of times its easier to see from the ground…better yet to start getting an eye for it by videotaping your rides!
Don’t be afraid to admit that you might be the problem and work to fix it. After all we are only human. Its only fair to evaluate ourselves as well as our horses!
What was the biggest thing you found impeding you and your horses progress?
P.S. Check out my article on why riding more then one horse is a good idea as I feel it ties right into this baby!