This fall I’ve had the opportunity to ride with a friend who is a horse trainer professionally. She has a wide variety of horses in her barn, and it has been so much fun to ride different horses again.
When I was a kid, mucking stalls in exchange for lessons, I jumped at the chance to ride every single horse that came through the little barn. There were only 4 stalls, but 2 of them were borders and changed out every couple years. I rode every single horse that came through that heavy sliding door except for one, who came during my last year of college. I was 8 hours away.
There were some horses I bonded with more than others over the years, particularly the one I knew the longest and was paid to ride in the frigid winters–but riding different animals was so incredibly valuable for me as a rider.
I’ve been riding Midas for 10 years. 8 of those years, its been almost exclusively Midas. There is something different and special about working with one horse for a long time. But the value I’ve found in a variety of mounts is incredible.
Horses are different. Nothing forces you to learn how to communicate–I mean, RIDE–like facing someone else’s presuppositions head on. Because that’s what most horse behavior is, really, a presupposition. A worldview that has been taught to them by the other humans in their life.
One horse has been systematically taught by past riders that she doesn’t get an opinion, but she has to go fast. She doesn’t understand medium or slow, so you have to ask gently, patiently, consistently.
Another has been trained for the race track and doesn’t know how to stand still or put his head down.
Another has been trained with Rolkur and just…tucks his chin…but has no fight at all and not a mean bone in his body, doing everything asked, whether you meant to ask or not.
When you ride them, you have to unravel the way they frame the world, and reframe it for them. It takes time. It is SO much fun. Nothing teaches you what your body communicates to a horse at the most basic level like riding different horses teaches. You learn how you have to adjust the height of your hands based on the shape of the horse and the discipline and what you’re trying to accomplish at that moment. You learn how to use your legs–the roles of your upper thigh vs your calf–things you may have already known, but now they are vitally important every day, and can’t just be auto pilot because different horses need more or less of different aids. You learn to use your breath–a shockingly useful tool.
I guess that’s what it is. Riding a variety of horses makes you think, and be aware, and also makes it easier to think and be aware. I love it.
It makes me better.
It makes me a better rider.