Responsibility is a Two Way Street for Horse & Rider

Responsibility is a Two Way Street for Horse & Rider

Responsibility is a Two Way Street for Horse & Rider

Responsibility is a Two Way Street for Both Horse & Rider

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Become clearer on what you are responsible for when riding
  • Learn what your horses responsibilities are when being ridden
  • Realise that correcting and controlling are two very different things
  • Begin working towards the ‘ideal situation’ in your riding

Do you like when there is someone always looking over your shoulder?  Initially it may help to get you doing something correctly.  However, overtime you will begin to resent the other persons ‘watching’ and ‘interfering’.

Your horse feels the same way.  It is no fun for him having a rider who simply won’t allow him to learn to take responsibility and do things for himself. 

Part of your responsibility as ‘team leader for you and your horse is understanding when to hand over the reins of responsibility to other team members.  This means allowing your horse to have certain things that, over time, he can learn to look after and become responsible for.

In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast how horse riding really is a team effort where responsibility is concerned.  I talk about how it is important that you begin to transition your mindset around what you can and are controlling in your riding. 

What ARE You Responsible For?

It’s a bit of a loaded question, isn’t it?  Many riders believe that they are responsible for everything when it comes to riding.  However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

In fact, thinking this way can be one of the biggest reasons you are failing to move forward in your overall riding.  Also, it is one of the reasons many horses fail to progress in their training as well… 

There are certain things that are within your control.  Expending energy and time on trying to control anything outside of those specific things will only lead to frustration, confusion, exhaustion and a waste of your resources.

You can control your thoughts, your emotions and your physical actions. That is it. Everything else can potentially be influenced to a certain degree by how well you can control those three things. 

They are your responsibilities as a rider.  And through gaining greater levels of control over those three things, you can learn to more positively influence and impact how your horse goes.

Your Transition as a Rider

Understanding the above principle is essential in order for you to go from a “beginner” in the saddle, to someone who has positive influence over their horses way of going.

Early rides should be devoted to riders gaining more control over the things they can actually control. 

It is when riders begin trying to control ‘outside’ things, whether intentional or not, that the wheels tend to fall off the whole riding experience.  Yes, things might ‘look’ pretty, but the basic mechanics of each movement are essentially incorrect.

Your progress as a rider is hinged on understanding what you can control.  Then taking necessary steps and actions in order to improve that control.  Only then can you begin to think about how you are actually assisting your horses way of going. 

Your Responsibility as Team Leader

Once you begin being able to control the elements of the ride that are within the realm of your control, this is where things can begin getting interesting.  The Team Leader is like the captain. They themselves are only a single part of the whole team.  Asking them to function on their own would defeat the purpose of having a team.

Team Leaders are responsible for creating a plan to achieve each goal.  Then setting each team member up in the best possible way to actually perform their individual, and essential, role in that plan. 

That is your job in the saddle.  Know what the team as a whole wants.  Create a definitive plan to get there.  Then make sure everyone on the team is supported in carrying out whatever it is they have to do in order to make this all happen.

Allowing Other Team Members to Perform

It all sounds simple enough, right?  However this is the part that I find many riders struggle with.  The ‘Allowing’ things to happen.  Again, this comes back to trying to control things which are basically outside of our control.

Setting things up is one thing.  Standing back and then allowing things to unfold is quite another! It is so tempting to keep trying to control everything.  Particularly if we have had success, however limited, with this way of riding in the past. 

However just like a child learning to become independent, or a business being able to scale and grow, it is ESSENTIAL that the rider / parent / business owner allows others to grow into their new roles and responsibilities.

Setting Your Horse Up for Success

Now, obviously, your horse is not born with a clear understanding of what you desire to make happen from the saddle!  Part of being an effective Team Leader is to effectively explain to your horse, using your aids, what you want him to do.

Many riders think that they must just show their horse something once, and then it is up to the horse to know this for all future situations.  Those same riders, if they were honest with themselves, would know that learning something is rarely this easy!

This is where correction plays such a huge role in your horse learning to become responsible for certain elements of the ride. 

Your job, as a teacher or trainer to your horse, is to explain what he must do.  Allow him to do it.  And then make any necessary corrections as quickly and simply as possible.

We All Learn From Mistakes

You do.  I do.  The person sitting across from you does.  Your horse does.  Mistakes are an essential part of learning to do anything correctly.  They are the contrast needed to make obvious what is ‘correct’ and what is ‘incorrect’.

Beating someone, or your horse, up for making a mistake is not only counter productive.  It also teaches them not to try any further for fear of making another mistake.  

As a rider, you will simply show your horse or explain to your horse what you want.  Then let him try it out.  There are going to be mistakes.  In fact, there are probably going to be lots of mistakes initially.

Your responsibility is to allow your horse to make the mistake.  Then you take immediate action in ‘fixing’ or correcting it.  Then allow again, this time trusting that your horse will learn from the initial mistake. 

Overtime, you will find that you will have to step in to make fewer and fewer corrections. Your horse will make fewer mistakes as he grows in confidence, abilities and strength.  It is such a wonderful process to allow to unfold.  But the key is that you have to actually allow it to happen.

The ‘Ideal Situation’ when Riding

When you allow your horse to begin taking responsibility for his own actions and energy in the ride, both of your training can now begin to make progress.  Think of it this way, the less energy you have to spend making sure ‘everything’ gets done, the more energy you can invest in actually planning what is going to happen.

Many riders will ask me “How long must I take lessons before I will be able to ride?”.  I know, answering with a straight face is a toughie here; how long is a piece of string, right?!  However, I think that there actually is an ‘end goal’ when it comes to the relationship between horse and rider.

In an ‘Ideal Situation’, you will ask your horse to do something.   He will happily respond to this request in a timely fashion.  Then, and this is the key part, he will continue to do whatever it is you have asked – UNTIL you step in and ask for something different.

For example, pick up a balanced, rhythmic, correct canter on a twenty meter circle.  Sure thing; and he keeps cantering in a balanced, rhythmic correct arc on that circle until you ask him to do something else.

It is Your Responsibility to Ride with This in Mind

In order for your horse to be able to actually achieve his role in the ‘Ideal Situation’, you must allow him to make and then learn from his mistakes.  He must understand that there are certain things he is responsible for.

Now, I do think it is only fair to add here that the number of horse and rider teams who actually reach this level in their training are few and far between…

But I don’t see why this should stop you from trying in your riding.  It all just comes down to understanding your role and responsibilities in the saddle.  And, also, understanding and allowing your horse to have his own roles and responsibilities when under the saddle.

Happy Riding


Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-

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Couple this with the weekly live Q&As, the monthly review and planning live calls and the members only private group ~ we are here to help you remain accountable as team leader for you and your horse.

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