One thing I’ve been told consistently by separate horsewomen and men throughout my riding career is “Ride the horse you are given.”
This can mean a lot of different things depending on the circumstances. Be more tough on a pokey sloughy type, don’t expect the saintly 2”0 packer to jump around a 1.20m course, and allow a horse’s fitness and physical limitations be your guardrails.
It can translate to a whole host of other lessons, but those examples tell us we have to listen and be pliable. We cannot immure our animals into selfish expectations.
Sometimes I focus so much on what a horse needs at a given time, I do not embrace its counter-message. Be consistent. For me and my human clan, it’s a tough sell. Be flexible to what a horse needs, but also be the same in the intensity and escalation of your asks? Maybe you should ask me to solve differential equations without a calculator while juggling especially slippery objects.
If you are like me, you have a lot going on in your life, what I like to call “distractions” from my true love of animals and riding. Examples of this include this little thing called “work” and “taxes”.
My mind can be flooded with these distractions, and when I allow it to take a forefront mental calculations, my riding feels much more hurried. Rather than be the relaxed and soft rider I know I can be, it’s about getting to point B in the fastest way possible.
Real life scenario – I arrive at the barn, late for my lesson, after a high-pressure, hectic work day. I allow my normal, slow warm up. This was deliberate. When getting Q up to speed, I kept repeating to be slow and listen to him, especially we are dealing with soundness question marks.
Good job me right? Wrong.
We start jumping, and there goes all that quiet riding I warmed up on. I am aggressive, shoulder-pitching, leaning self with all the pressures of a stressful corporate job screaming at me when I need it least.
Being consistent is my crux when my mind is playing through its own algorithms. My approach needs to be the same, because it’s not fair to divert course mid-ride.
Does anyone else have to practice deliberate consistency? Or get easily caught in a tense cycle once it starts? Always appreciative of suggestions.
I am not a “triggered” person. There is no one event, word, or situation that will throw me into blind rage. This is especially true with horses, where more often than not I am told I am too soft and ineffective.
There is one horse behavior that truly drives me batty. And I encountered it when riding Q this week.
Let me set the stage, Q is not – by any stretch of the imagination – a wild horse. He always tends to be behind your leg, and he carries himself as a “been there, done that” kind of guy. It is rare he will bat at eye at anything. Like, truly anything, sometimes *I* jump at noises that he is just like, What’s going on up there, lady?
I cannot reiterate how calm this horse is.
With all the rain we’ve been having and the mild unsoundness, I got on the goober still expecting the same Q.
RULE NUMBER ONE WITH HORSES, DOOFUS. Expectations? Throw them out the window.
It took one strange spooking horse in the distance to initiate the launch sequence. Hopping and rearing. Pretending we were a dolphin. It was cute, were it not for the 5 other horses in the ring.
I will ride through most fanfare, but rearing is not an activity I am not willingly participating in, especially since there were other (well-behaved but impressionable) horses in the ring.
Out of courtesy for others, I got off promptly and marched the guy down to the smaller, quieter ring.
Mind you, I didn’t want to let him loose, because I still wasn’t sure how he would feel soundness-wise. I had a good idea he’d feel fine, since he was impersonating bombastic marine life. However, I was not going to let him buck around in case it was cold weather jitters, and he tweaked something further.
So I got back on in the smaller, quieter ring and like *magic* had old Q back, slow and predictable (and most importantly sound!).
However, I knew he had a hidden energy in him, so I was fed up with his “I couldn’t possibly trot forward” schtick. Dude, you tried to plant me in the ground not 10 minutes ago!
We had nice forward movement, then later returned to the “scary” ring and acted a perfect gentleman. At any rate, the spooking followed by zapped energy is not a strategy for success when I am riding. I will make them move forward if they show me that they are willing to spook explosively.
What are your hidden pet peeves?
It’s no secret that the world is moving to cities. As we migrate to our high-rises and skyscrapers, land becomes increasingly expensive as most of our public spaces will be converted into vertical architecture.
We cannot put horses in skyscrapers. Though at the Royal Agricultural Fair, there is a two-story stable building which has always given me pause. As well, I do know some carriage horses in New York and other large cities reside in multi-story buildings.
This is far from the ideal circumstances for our performance horses.
So this begs the question, how will increased city living change the way we ride our horses?
More with Less
This is the key driver forcing all of the below listed after effects. My suspicion with increasing property values is that horses will have to be managed on less land. That means larger scale barns, smaller turnouts, and meticulous scheduling.
Getting a horse moving will become increasingly reliant on treadmills / hot walkers and other “simulated” turnouts. Gone will be the days of endless lush green turnouts for solely two horses.
Our horse care professionals will need to accommodate for less variety of footing and likely less of “freeform” exercise. We will see more injuries related to inconsistencies in work frequency and loading; fewer related to turnout-related freak accidents.
Increases in horse proximity and activity may lead to higher instances of ulcers.
Horses that are given strict schedules may flourish (high-level of detail on care and training) or flounder (over drilling until submission). With greater time spent in a stall, owners may spend more on enrichment objects and activities for their horses.
With the mounting pressure financially, some barns will not be able to afford to be a mid-tier facility. Stratifying the divide between “us” and “them”, the elitism of the sport will be positioned to intensify.
Living in close proximity to others has shared advantages of public services, transportation, and culture. We gain so much from interactions with diversity and enabling a pooled set of resources.
Horseback riding is not a typical sport. You cannot shove it in the basement of a gym, and rest laurels on the comradely of people. Our equipment requires special storage, care, and attention.
As we adjust to the new normal, this will present real shifts in our industry. In my suspected future, what do you agree or disagree with? What did I miss?
Another trip down unsound horse lane, after experiencing this with the previous horse I rode. It always is frustrating to gain speed and steam only to but told to rest in the height of progress. Hopefully we are not sidelined for too long, but at minimum Q is going to need a couple days to relax and recover from some soreness.
What does that mean for me?
I get to return to thought pieces and mindful reflections on my riding.
Topics to be mulled over.
As an aside, I do not expect this unsoundness will last long, this soreness is very mild.
Our show has been officially delayed. While sad we are not showing this weekend, this will be a good chance to actually accumulate all the necessary gear before jumping into the show ring. As well, it never hurts to have more practice time, especially given all the weather-related drama we’ve been having lately.
This past weekend, I finally got a chance to look at videos of myself riding. I obsessively made others film me in university and early adulthood. I shrug certain equitation problems away unless it is staring me in the face, so these were always helpful to give an unflinching look at my problems.
There is no substitution for boots on the ground, preferably yelling at you, but a video of what you look like can at least remind you of what holes in your riding need tackling.
Very rarely do I look at videos and feel better. The more likely outcome is me looking and wondering how the heck I can get away with what I am doing up there.
This was one of those times I was pleasantly surprised though. There was a lot I would change, but that’s a part of my self-improving nature that will always be there.
My hands are doing less weird things. Trust me, they used to do really weird things, like pull down into crotch regions with super long reins. Shivers.
I still wish I had less expressive shoulders over fences, but I recognize there is improvement there. I need more weight in my heels on landings, but my leg is fairly stable at this height.
I see areas where I could support Q much better through sharper turns, but I need more flatwork to really get him bent around my leg more effectively.
All of that will come. I am happy I see progress! If this was a video review, we would not quite say touchdown. But maybe this qualifies as a 2-point effort.
My upcoming show is not my first goat-rodeo. I have been lucky to take many horses around hunter, jumper, and equitation classes from age 12 onward. The majority of this was done in my early teens, with the financial and emotional willingness waning a bit as I aged.
I cherish the memories wearing wool coats in 100 degree heat. I still remember the tension of reaching to the bottom of a garment bag and not being able to find the matching ratcatcher. I was a bit of a loose-brained child (not much changed) so this happened… frequently….
But times are changed. Now we wash our huntcoats. And our collars come attached. And some even wear feathers in their hair (which I am so much a fan of, I love tradition as much as the next person, but c’mon, we are also here to have fun).
Unfortunately, when I detailed my showing attire to my current trainer, which includes 1) Navy disco KEP helmet 2) Navy blue gloves 3) Grey technical fabric coat with somewhat odd embroidery (never worn, bought used) 4) Beige Tailored Sportman’s bought in the 90’s with “saggy butt” fit. No one was terribly impressed with this lineup.
It was time for a small update. The KEP helmet must stay, mostly because I caused an internal hemorrhage by buying it in my university days, and while it does not totally match my down-to-earth mantra I still love it.
I have picked up a nice, respectable used RJ Classics Navy Coat. I tried so despearately to squeeze into an XS Kerrit’s coat that was only $50, but not surprisingly, it did not fit the way a hunt coat should (thank you saddle shop worker for talking sense into me).
Next I may pick up the Trauma Void helmet. Also considering a velvet Charles Owen. Will open that one to the crowd as to what they think is best (assuming everything fits safely, of course, which they both do).
My one item that probably does not need replacing is my show shirt, which I bought recently on sale. Phew. Now I am not a complete disaster.
That leaves one item – saggy butt beige Tailored Sportsman’s, actually bought in the 90’s. I have a really hard time replacing these, mostly because when I am riding, they look perfectly normal. It’s only when I get off that they look like parachute pants.
Especially since this will only be a schooling show… we will see.