Why, after all these years, I still need riding lessons

Freedom in the hunt field
Freedom and I are getting "tuned up" this summer.
If you’re not actively working to get better at what you do, there’s a good chance you’re getting worse, no matter what the quality of your initial training may have been.

I read this on the Internet (The Energy Project) and it encapsulated what I feel about working with a trainer.

I’ve had a lot of riding lessons in my life. A lot. I’ve worked with some great trainers and if I could remember everything they told me, I’d probably be fine. The problems are 1) I need to be reminded what I know and 2) Freedom is a different kind of horse from my past horses . . . which means what I learned in the past doesn’t always apply.

Before Freedom I always had horses that were basically “kick along” lazy. Those, I’ve been told, are the easy horses to ride. And that’s true. If I kept my leg on and my hands soft, I would ride forward to fences and almost always get a good spot. I didn’t need fancy bits to keep my horses under control. Heck, I rode Kroni in a bitless bridle even in the hunt field. All I had to do to slow him down was whisper “whoa!”

Freedom is another beast altogether. Sometimes I wonder if he’s even the same species. In car terms, Kroni was a Hummer and Freedom is a Mazerati. He’s sensitive, highly tuned and can go from 0-35 faster than anything I’ve ever ridden. He’s also anxious and worried, especially when he gets tired or feels over faced.

When that happens he gets behind my leg, flips his head and, if we’re jumping, flattens and runs at the fences — or equally frustrating, starts getting more and more crooked. When that happens, I usually trot a fence or two and then stop jumping, even if we’re out in the hunt field. I just don’t feel safe jumping a horse that isn’t even looking at the fences.

Freedom has improved greatly over the past few years. He’s much more confident over fences and much more relaxed on the flat. But having a pair of eyes on the ground and someone who can set up exercises that address our weaknesses is critical to continuing to improve. Without those educated eyes it’s all too easy to develop bad habits. Before long those bad habits feel “normal” and then they become difficult to fix.

This summer I decided that I would invest in some lessons that would bring us to the fall season better prepared . . . and safer.

That’s not always as easily done as you might think. Last summer I took two or three lessons from a trainer and found that her approach didn’t mesh with what I needed.

This summer I’ve had better luck. Maybe it’s a sign of the bad economy but I’ve had the opportunity to ride with two very accomplished trainers who have both helped me re-evaluate my strategies and re-align my body and my technique. I’m amazed — and grateful — that instructors of this caliber will come to our public riding arena. If I had to trailer to my lessons they wouldn’t happen very often.

Tune in later for some specifics!

3 thoughts on “Why, after all these years, I still need riding lessons

  1. Why would you think you did not need coaching? Even Olympic level riders have trainers. That is what makes riding so engrossing– you can never perfect it!

  2. Thanks for posting this. I frequently get comments from non-equestrian friends and family when I mention that I have a riding lesson on such-and-such day. Comments like “Why do you take riding lessons if you already know how to ride?”. I usually reply with something along the lines of “For the same reasons that Tiger Woods and Serena Williams still have coaches. I aim to improve my skills and my connection with the horse during each ride.” Professional support not only helps me to keep improving but also prevents my skills from deteriorating. Great post! Thanks!

    1. My husband has been asking me for years if I’m ever going to know how to ride! The answer is, probably not. Of course, I need fewer lessons now than I used to, but the goal post is always moving.

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