Thursday, December 07, 2017

Playing Student vs Playing Teacher

This is an older post, but remains one of my favourites. I believed it was the best candidate to lead off the Throwback Thursday Series.

I have the wonderful opportunity to ride different horses at my barn.  I love riding different horses, as they always have something different to teach.  I enjoy quirks and personality as well as talent and heart.  The horses that I thankfully get to ride have all four traits.

Yukon Bear

But I digress. This past week was eye opening for me.  On Thursday, I rode Bear in a lesson where we worked on gymnastics.  It was the first time that we have done a gymnastic line for him ever, but he took it all in stride.  I was filled with joy as "Baby Bear" marched through the gymnastic without blinking an eye.  I realized how much fun it was playing "teacher" and helping Bear succeed.

Fast forward to Sunday when I did the same gymnastics line with Jon.  After a year of riding him, I have gained confidence and know that I can trust him to do anything I ask.  So when the grid got bigger and bigger, I knew that I could just go through and focus on myself.  I trusted him to get the job done.  When the grid ended up at 4'0, I wasn't nervous or fearful... I knew that Jon would get me through it.  I realized that I was the student this time around.

Working alongside my wonderful coach, I have learned a lot from these two horses this year (Gracie taught a whole other book of things).  Bear and Jon are similar in ways, but their experience level is where they differ.  I think that is why both of them make lessons and rides such fun.

Bear has taught me patience.  He is such a smart horse and as a result picks up new skills very quickly.  However there are times that the "baby brain" comes out.  Nothing happens overnight and it is foolish to think that something would.  As a result, I repeat a lot of things when I ride Bear.  Through repetition, he understands more and more what I am asking him.

Jon has taught me to focus on the little things.  Whether it is tidying up a corner or strengthening my lower leg, he has made me want to be a better rider.  His work ethic and willingness to perform makes him such fun.  Riding him makes you want to improve. Through the past months, we have been able to work on the secondary things and "prettying it all up".

My first show with Hope Town

Bear has reminded me to be clear.  The correct execution is essential to the training of a horse and to the program of the rider.  Each request must be clear and concise enough for a horse to understand.  Now when the horse is leggy, quirky and every now and then a bit spooky, these requests must be 100% correct to avoid confusion. I have learned to be clear and understanding as a rider.  Like coaching, every now and then you have to change your coaching method a bit.  Sometimes this may mean a set-back, but it will pay off in the long run.

Jon has taught me to stay humble.  Although a wonderful horse, he does have an exuberant personality.  He reminds me that we are a team.  As a horse, he made me work hard this year.  But the results we had proved that it was worth it. He reminds me to smile about our success and laugh at our (well my) goofs.  When I mess up, I learned to brush it off, recover, and improve for the next challenge.

But every stride matters, no matter the horse, no matter their level of experience.

Both of these horses have reminded me the importance of sportsmanship and horsemanship this past year. Gracie taught me the importance of confidence and hard work, and these two horse have expanded on that concept. The different levels and personalities between these two horses kept me on my toes this year.  It is never a dull moment and continues to be a fun journey.

The OG Teacher

Be thankful your horses do for you and for what they can teach you.