It’s The Horse!
It’s The Horse! was written by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian. In this blog post, Scott explores this all too common saying.
“It’s the horse!” you’ll often hear that screamed during a coaching session. “The horse won’t…” The horse this, the horse that… You know, it’s often the same no matter who you are. It unites us all.
As riders, we tend to look at riding horses a robotic exercise. Even when we think we don’t, we often treat them as such. I know I have done just that, especially in the past.
Ask anyone whose taught me through the years, “it’s the horse!” was a great excuse to try and cover up my own faults and incapabilities as a rider.
Coach: “Your inside leg is doing nothing! More inside leg!! More!! MORE!!”
Me: “I AM! I CAN’T ADD MORE! THE HORSE WON’T LISTEN TO IT! HE’S A LAZY…!!”
Here’s the thing. We all do that.
As riders we have to be open to accepting that *we* are the problem. I’m not saying we are always the issue but sometimes taking that feedback when we try so hard feels horrible. Accepting that in itself is often the hardest thing to do.
I learned to ride back in 2012. I was 24 years old and keen as hell. As soon as I could trot, I thought I could canter. Once I could canter I thought I could jump. Then once I could jump a straight pole of about 50cm? “Crank it up lads! 1.20m here I come!!”
I shit you not… There was a stage in 2012 where I thought I’d be the next Carl Hester. My confidence had me absolutely delusional!
Confidence is something we all need. Especially when working with half-ton animals. Confidence is also easily shattered. I can honestly say that in the equestrian world, confidence can be a hell of a lot more fragile than our bodies in a fall. It can be knocked from falls, near misses… It can be shattered from fear of what may happen or even from criticism from others. Someones words can hit us harder than any surface.
Confidence can make you feel like the next Dressage superstar or it can prevent your backside ever from touching the saddle again.
When I think of confidence I’m thankful that I’ve never suffered from a lack of it – in horses anyway. In my early days I was overconfident but I’ve never found myself in need of a boost.
I’m thankful that I’m so stubborn and blind at times that I genuinely thought I was destined to be the next Carl Hester… I still live in hope though!
It’s a Language
I’ve said it before in previous blogs and I’ll say it again – Horse riding is the language between horse and rider. It’s a culmination of verbal language, body language, body weight, balance, seat, legs, hands… and on some days, planetary alignment. Oh come on, how else do you explain mares?! Horse riding brings it all together as one language. One form of communication.
As riders, we’re constantly speaking to our horses. We ask many questions of them:
“Will you walk?”
“Can you trot?”
“Will you stop?”
Those are a few of many that we ask of our horses every day we ride. It’s so easy to forget that the horse also speaks to us.
“I feel lazy today.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Use yer indicator thingies!”
By the way, that last one means preparing your horse for turns or transitions. Half-halts. A simple sign that something is changing. See? Everything is communication when we ride.
The Person on the Ground
When someone is on the ground watching us ride, they get a whole other perspective of the entire image. That person gets the visual whereby we as riders sense the feel. You cannot teach someone feel. You can give them the tools to develop their feel but it’s the one thing you can never teach someone to have. It requires time, practice and that lightbulb to go off when you realise you finally ‘get it.’
The person on the ground has the entire view of what’s happening. They can see when the horse bends or reacts. They can see how we use our bodies, our aids and how the horse is responding to them. It’s easy for us to think we feel one thing but the image from the ground can tell the opposite. It can tell a whole other story entirely. This often comes as a shock to riders.
The next time someone gives you an instruction of something like “MORE LEG!!” Ask yourself *why* they shout that rather than taking the “I am but it’s the horse!” attitude. There’s always a reason and quite often we just can’t feel that refinement that’s required of our aids. Maybe just try a wee bit harder and understand that there is a bigger picture. There’s a reason they shout it. It may just be that you actually can’t feel it *yet*.
It will come. However it does take time. Hang in there!
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