As I have come to know my horses better, I have been realizing that everything I learned about riding lessons hasn’t really stuck with me. I was wondering if it was all for naught, but then I recognized that I did learn lots about riding, but only riding.
I have taken riding lessons for a long time; on and off since I was about five. I learned how to ride, yes, but understanding horses never really came into the picture. I learned how to tell my horse what to do, and how to sit in the saddle and how to steer the horse. But having a relationship with the lesson horse that I rode was never really possible.
I was extremely grateful for the time that I got, and I did learn a ton on how to ride. My teachers were always kind and didn’t push, and I did gain time and confidence with horses that I might not have now.
I have been recognizing that all my riding instructors taught me how to ride, but they did not teach me how to have a relationship with my lesson horse, and I always felt like I wanted that; I loved the horse, but I knew he did not love me back. My teachers also taught me how to instruct the horse what to do, but I never felt as though the horse really understood/wanted to please me because that relationship was missing.
As I learned how to ride, I now understand that my teachers taught me how to ride the way they were taught, but I never knew how a horse’s mind worked until after I stopped taking lessons and started learning more about horse training. As soon as I learned more about horse’s minds, I felt a little disappointed that I had not known it earlier, because it might have helped my riding; maybe not, but that I can never know.
One thing that I never realized until now is that every time I get on a horse, or are near it, I am teaching it. Teaching the horse good habits, bad habits, and also teaching him about myself. This never dawned on me until learning about horse training. I wondered if I had taught my lesson horse bad habits, or made any difference to him. If I came back, would he remember me? Would he care if I ever saw him again?
After buying our own horses, I have been learning about building relationships with my horses, and have been learning that good riding comes from understanding how your horse works. What makes a horse tick? What makes them scared? How do I get into their heads what I want?
At my horseback riding lessons, my teachers taught me to try to communicate using thought before actually asking. For example, if I wanted my horse to trot, I should imagine myself trotting and will the horse to trot before using my legs to urge him on. I tried so hard to do this, but the horse never really listened to anything that was not very clear.
I have been recognizing that the relationship wasn’t there, and that because I did not know how a horse’s mind worked, I could not fully communicate what I wanted to the horse.
As I have been working with my own horse, Barbie, I feel that I really can use thought to get her to do what I want because of the relationship and understanding that is there. I also understand that with good horsemanship, really knowing the horse that you ride, comes good riding skills. I feel as though my horses have taught me more about riding than my teachers ever could, because they have taught me how a horse thinks.
If I were to ride someone else’s horse before I owned my own, would I feel as though I was in control? Probably not, because I had no understanding of how the horse understood me. Riding the same horse teaches you how to ride that horse, but if you only learn how to ride one horse, how does it help you? Each horse is different. A lesson horse knows to go around in circles in an arena, trot and canter when asked, and stop when you pull back on the reins. You may be learning to ride, but what is riding without knowing the horse?
For anyone that takes riding lessons, I would really encourage you to ask your teachers why you do certain things that may not make sense. Be curious about why horses do things the way they do, and it will help you to understand the horse better.