When I was very young my father sent me to 12 weeks of horse academy before I could have my own horse. He wanted me to be immersed in all things horse away from my family to learn all I could. No it was not a glorified boarding school..
I returned to the farm a sharp cookie. I would watch my Dad ride his horse and critique him on his balance and rein control. He would laugh and say I’ve owned horses longer than you’ve been alive. It was true he knew so many things that he passed on, but he was missing key points that would make him a better rider. He would say you do that fancy show stuff I’ll stick to good old fashioned riding a horse.
When I got my first show horse, Tucker, my Dad sent me to a professional trainer. He didn’t want to board the horse there so I had to ride an hour one way to the professional barn. I learned a lot about old fashioned riding every day after school as I dodged pot holes, and jumped ditches, and kept my horse in control while random cars blazed horns going by. I arrived every day just a few minutes before my session. Racing to get ready, as to not disrespect the trainer. One evening my horse kicked at another horse along the arena wall. In true cowgirl fashion, Kelly had me tie that horse to mine. I was so scared! What if we wreck? Just trust me. Every time he so much as flinched to kick I was to bring him up to a canter and beyond if necessary. My dad, entered the barn. It was getting dark and I hadn’t made it home yet. He leaned over the entrance gate and just watched quietly (rare occasion). I had to ride Tuck an additional hour. A hard ride, but he never kicked out at another horse again. It was too dark to ride home so I put Tucker in a stall and fed him for the night. Dad still just quietly observing. I thought I’m getting my butt kicked when I get home. He was never quiet and probably angry that he had to drive over to get me.
I climbed in the truck. Silence. Oooh I was in for it alright. As we turned the corner to our own home my Dad, the man I looked up to, and who knew everything about horses, said do you think Kelly would give me some lessons? I choked on my drink. Whaaaaaat! Stammering a reply I said oh I’m sure she would, but I thought you knew how to ride. We had just pulled in the driveway when he shut off the truck and looked over at me. I know how to stay on a horse. I maybe don’t know how to ride. He got out of the truck and I stayed in the dark. Total disbelief for what I had just heard. This man who had spent his entire life raising horses, riding in rodeos, calf roping, cutting just said he may not know how to ride. I pictured this giant man in an English saddle and chuckled to myself at the vision. As the months passed my Dad would take private lessons from Kelly. He never let me watch until he entered in a class and competed against me.
What’s the point? The point is that just because you have ridden a horse, or maybe even owned one. That doesn’t mean you know how to ride. There are so many moving parts to learn. Skeletal structure, impact control, psychology of a horse, muscle control and other things. Anyone can get on a horse. Very few can ride that horse they way it’s supposed to be ridden. When you listen and learn those techniques, a harmony between you and your animal develops. When you learn those techniques you will understand and apply them differently to every horse you ride. At fifty I have broken my body training horses, competing, and goofing off. Doctors look at my x-rays with confusion. I have been staying on a horse for 45 years and riding 20 of those years. I still have much to learn. We all do! When you pretend or believe you know what your doing? That’s when you will fail. You will fail the animal your working with. You will fail yourself.
I have lesson kids and parents that think they will know how to ride in one or two lessons. I have parents who assured me they know how to ride and then get on the horse and I immediately realize they just know how to stay on a horse. It takes time. Time in the saddle and time out of the saddle. It most certainly requires an open mind. So before you brush aside instruction as fancy show stuff. Remember my Dad. He learned for the first time in 40 years that he was just simply staying on the horse. After those lessons he became a better partner to his horse. He never had trouble catching him, the horse would ride through a burning building with him. Why? Because that horse knew my Dad had all the pieces of a safe secure master who put his horse first. He swallowed his ego and he listened for the sake of his horse.
That my friends is the cherry on the cake of the equestrian dream. å