Are you a HORSE RIDER or a HORSE TRAINER?
A horse rider rides reactively. As each stride is felt a horse rider will feel what is wrong with it and fix it. This means that a horse rider is always trying to fix problems after they have happened. They are trying to correct the horse after the it has lost balance, accuracy or tempo and as a result are also over correcting making it harder for the horse to maintain smooth consistency. A horse rider doesn't feel the subtle flexes and shift of weight that indicate what the horse is about to do and only asks why the horse isn't working better. A horse rider also often rides with heavy and strong aids because they feel that if they aren't their horse won't do the work and quite often they are correct, because whether you are intuitively a horse rider or a horse trainer, everything you do with a horse is training behaviour. So if you approach your riding with the thought that you have to be strong and that the horse isn't smart and you over ride your horse to get it to do anything that is how you have trained your horse to work.
A horse trainer rides intuitively. They are riding at least 4 strides ahead. They can feel what the horse is thinking and correcting the movement at the slightest shift of balance before anyone on the ground sees it. They ride each stride before it happens in preparation of what will happen, so they can ride in sync. There is a flow of movement between the horse and riders body as they move symbiotically as if they are dancing. A horse trainer understands the movement and communication is subtle and whilst the baby aids need to be quite big and loud to be clear they know how to refine them down so they can't be seen. A horse trainer understands it has to get messy before it gets good. To have a horse that is sensitive and light to aids, they have to be allowed to make mistakes and not be held and propped up by strong aids. A horse trainer understands that their horse has all the necessary qualities to be athletic and intelligent as long as they can provide the opportunity and exercises that develop them. A horse trainer understands the results will happen
Why you should choose to be a horse trainer over a horse rider
- A horse rider is always fighting with their horse. Because a horse rider is only riding what has already happened they are always chasing their tail trying to correct the mistakes the horse has already made. This means they are always reprimanding and never encouraging. There are always wanting their horse to work better but not actively helping, more often than not creating imbalance and discomfort by over correcting. A horse trainer is thinking at least 4 strides ahead so is able to set the horse up and correct any resistance or imbalance before they execute each stride and each movement. This gives the horse a better chance at success. They are always encouraging their horse for what they are going to ask them to do next making them more engaged and willing to try.
- A horse trainer breaks down what they are teaching their horse into small achievable steps and uses positive reinforcement when each little step is achieved, encouraging the horse to think and process what is being asked. A horse rider expects a horse to just understand what they want or be able to do what they ask. They don't take the time to reflect on whether or not the horse understands or has the physical development to be able to do what they are asking. They often end up creating the resistance because the horse can't do something that it doesn't understand or can't coordinate and so what is mistaken as a naughty horse is frequently a confused, misunderstood, poorly conditioned horse.
- A horse trainer knows how to use their balance and seat independently whereas a horse rider just hangs on. Using your core strength to balance allows you to control the horses movement, balance and direction without strong, heavy aids. Because a horse rider uses the horse to balance, they cannot adjust their stride or direction with their seat and so become dependent on the reins to pull the horse around and balance on their mouth. They also don't balance into the stirrups well and so will grip with their knees and thighs which works to push them away from the horse instead of into them.
- A horse trainer doesn't have their ego and feeling of success tied to what other people think of how their horse is going. A horse trainer understands that training is an ongoing and never ending process and is happy with where they are today. That doesn't mean they aren't striving to be better with each ride, it just means they are relaxed about the process. This means they are willing to let the training process look messy, they are willing to let their horse make mistakes and as a result the ride more 'loose'. They don't need to work at their 110% to get the horse to work and you can see it in the ease and grace of their movement.
- A horse trainer understands its the exercises that get the results not their riding. They know that while their riding plays an integral part, it is up to the horse to learn and develop coordination.
Where do you fall on the spectrum? We generally fluctuate somewhere between the 2. We often are better trainers when we are confident in the process and revert to riding when we just need to make something happen because the horse is testing us and we just have to push through to finish on a positive note. It is important to remember as both a rider and a trainer to let the horse make mistakes so it can learn.