What happens when the initial novelty of riding your horse begins to wear off? Like it or not, this will happen at some point. And when it does, one of the best ways to find a ‘spark’ again, is to become curious. For many riders, the initially satisfying ‘comfort zone’ ends up becoming the very thing that sets them off down a path of ‘same old, same old’ in their riding. What was once the highlight of each day or week, becomes a mundane task or chore that needs to be crossed off a list.
I’ve spoken before about how I’ve noticed that for most riders when they are starting out, it is simply the thrill or high of being around horses and being in the saddle that keeps them coming back for more. And, very often, an enormous amount of responsibility for the ‘success’ of each ride will fall on the horse and their behaviour during the ride. Which is fine… At the beginning.
However, when riders fail to begin taking more of that responsiblity for themselves, especially as the initial novelty wears off… Cracks begin to show! And horseriding tumbles lower and lower down the priority list!
This is why, the longer you have been calling yourself a ‘rider’, the more important it becomes to begin future pacing yourself and your goals with your horse.
Knowing Just Enough
Knowing just enough to get by is where most riders arrive in their riding. And, unfortunately, it’s also there that they stay! They know just enough to make things happen. You know, to do the few things that they like to do when in the saddle. Maybe it’s trotting, or working over small and simple tracks of jumps. And this can be a nice place to find yourself as a rider… You are doing something you enjoy. You ‘know enough’ to get from A to B fairly safely and in one piece. And it’s usually a little ‘thrilling’ or ‘exciting’ to do this with your horse.
The problem with knowing just enough is that you can never refine or improve that particular aspect of your riding or horsemanship.
And, over time, the very thing that made you excited to mount up quickly becomes something that starts to feel mundane and repetitive. And as your level of comfort doing this thing increases, those feelings of (shock and horror) boredom will begin colouring the whole experience. Knowing just enough is great when you are initially getting started with something. In fact, if you rather wait until you ‘know more’, you probably won’t ever get around to getting started!
And yet, when you wait too long in the ‘knowing just enough’ stage of your riding; chances are you won’t be an active rider for too much longer!
Becoming Curious About ‘More’
I really feel that this is the next step as a rider. And usually, this comes from something we watch, listen to, or read about someone else doing with their horse. So, let’s take the trotting example mentioned earlier. When you ‘know just enough’, you’ve probably got a good handle on your up-downs. And you’re able to predict and keep in rhythm with your horse’s movement for the most part, which is great and necessary.
And then, one day, you watch another rider using ground poles to begin developing their horse’s rhythm a little more. You become curious. “Why are you repeating that exercise so much with your horse?” you genuinely ask them. And this rider (we hope) will explain a little about establishing and maintaining a rhythm before, during, and after the poles. They might even throw in a comment about bends, turns, and corners. And even about how they are ‘helping their horse to begin lightening in front’.
Your curiosity is peaked! Now trotting has become ‘more’ and you see this whole new potential for what was quickly becoming a fairly repetitive and boring ‘1,2,1,2’ for you and your horse.
And what’s even better, as you begin to dive into this a little more yourself, you not only think that it’s possible. You begin to believe that you can and will achieve this with your horse. And so, riding becomes oh so interesting again for you both!
Not All Sunshine and Roses
Now, usually, riders will at this point haul out all of the exercises they have read about in books and magazines. Or maybe you will try to replicate the exercises that you have watched other riders using on YouTube. And why not; after all this all serves to inspire you into taking action.
But it is REALLY important to understand that exercises alone will NOT give you the long-term results you are looking for in your riding. Simply riding a whole folder load of new exercises, without first strengthening the basics, is a recipe that leads straight to frustration and irritation!
And this is exactly where so many riders simply stop trying. They’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that simply ‘riding the exercises’ will somehow transform their skills in the saddle and their horse’s development.
For you to succeed and improve you need to first of all understand the concept more deeply. Couple this with realizing that there are certain things you will have to start, change, or stop doing. And then add time and consistency to the mix…
And, for most riders, this is just too much. After riding those once-inspiring exercises a few times – but failing to see any improvement, they feel deflated. And while some might conclude ‘I just can’t do that’, others might think ‘that doesn’t work, it’s nonsense’.
I honestly believe that there are very few occasions either of those statements are true or helpful. I think it rather comes down to resilience…
Resilience and Pushing Through
So what if, after becoming curious about ‘more’, you recognize and accept that ‘more’ will require quite a bit of discomfort to get there… The discomfort of not knowing all of the things. And the discomfort of getting it less than perfect – over and over again. And then being willing to tweak the approach and try again – to maybe even more ‘fails’…
Building this resilience in the saddle is absolutely crucial to eventually becoming a rider – instead of merely a passenger – for your horse.
And realizing that the reason it’s ‘not working’ is usually down to either a lack of understanding (you or your horse), a lack of correct & clear communication (your responsiveness, aids & expectations), or a lack of physical and mental development (you or your horse) will literally transform how you begin to approach things in your riding.
I love the feeling of ‘being curious’. I think that it’s a pretty simple feeling to get to from almost anywhere else. It has the power to shift your thought process, your emotions, moods, and feelings about things. And it helps keep things interesting for both you and your horse.
So, all of that being said, what can you begin to become curious about this week in your riding?
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