It is important to have educated trainers and instructors to teach you how to ride and what to do. But, the responsibility for much of your learning and discovery needs to come from you. Don’t always look to your trainer to give you all of the answers or to even ask the questions. Ultimately it is up to you to put your knowledge into action and to ask questions all along the way if you want to continually improve. You can find the answers to your questions from self-reflection, from listening to your horse, watching others ride, watching videos, reading books, going to clinics and from your instructor.
Ride with a sense of discovery, looking for new ways to do things and changes that need to be made in order to improve. Keep your mind and body open to messages from your horse and yourself. Using good judgment, try new things to see what changes may occur. Reflect on what is happening honestly and nonjudgmentally and make new changes as needed. Make one change at a time and see what happens. Try one aid and see how it changes your horse’s movement, balance and performance. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t. But learn from what doesn’t work and remember that it may work in a different situation on a different horse. Make sure you understand why something doesn’t work and why something else does. Try new patterns and exercises to see what helps you and your horse improve. Remember to do this with good judgment so that you don’t try something above your ability. Ask your trainer if you are not sure. Learning to reflect and ask questions is how you will improve.
I often asked my students if they know who Xenophon was. He was a Greek philosopher, soldier and student of Socrates in c. 430-354 BC. He wrote “On Horsemanship.” It is thought to be the earliest writing on horsemanship. My question I always pose, after I ask if a rider knows who Xenophon was is, “Who taught Xenophon and how did he know what write in the first book?” Think about it. I am sure he had some trainers who helped him learn how to ride, but, the first horseman had to discover how to become good riders through trial and error. They, like Xenophon, studied the anatomy, movement and psychology of the horse. They also studied the psychology of the riders. A sense of discovery and philosophical thought were a large part of their being. They posed questions and searched for answers in all aspects of living. Philosophy means, the love of wisdom.
Be a philosopher when you ride. Search for the questions to ask, look for the answers. Develop a feel by being open to the discovery of what your horse is doing and saying to you. Honest self-reflection will help you discover the blocks you have preventing you from improving. Opening up the conversation with your horses will allow you to hear and understand their needs. Understand that your trainer is there for guidance and knowledge, but it is ultimately your responsibility to come to the table with a sense of discovery, a willingness to work hard and the desire to learn new things.