That’s right. I am a perfect, faultless, flawless rider, and I’m reminded of that every day when I get onto my flying unicorn.
You did get the sarcasm, right?
Because the “perfect” rider is right up there with that beautiful flying unicorn.
Sure, there are many very very good riders, and also some wonderfully naturally talented riders, but none of us is perfect. And it’s almost a certainty that the day we smugly congratulate ourselves on how good we are….that’s the day a horse will knock you down a peg or six.
I don’t remember who it’s attributed to (maybe Winston Churchill?), but the line about horses being great levellers is very true. Horses don’t care how good or clever you think you are.
And back to those annoying people who have a natural talent for riding. As you can no doubt guess, I’m not one of them, and what skill or ability I have has been earned with blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes quite literally. I’ve ridden a lot of “bad” horses - I could often tell which horse I’d be riding for my lesson: It was the one doing handstands in the lesson before mine! Though I have to say I was also given the privilege of riding my trainer’s dressage horse a few times, which was extra special as I used to ride his mother and had known him since birth. Actually even before then, as I rode her while she was pregnant.
So the point of today’s post, I guess, is just a reminder that there is no perfect rider, and anyone who says they are a perfect rider is deluded, a liar, or both. I’m sure even Charlotte Dujardin, with her incredible Olympic dressage scores, feels there are things she can still work on and improve. And I think that’s one of the key things about riding horses well. We never stop learning, and we also never stop teaching the horse. Every interaction with our horse, we’re teaching them something. We are responsible for making sure we’re teaching something we want them to learn!
We must also make sure we recognise and reward even tiny improvements, whether ridden or handling. For example, my QH mare, a few months ago, inexplicably began pulling/rushing backward when bridle or halter were removed (and as I’m the one who does that 99% of the time, I was confident it wasn’t caused by “operator error”). We’ve been working on it, starting off actually undoing a cheekpiece to remove the bit and building it up slowly. Last week, she not only stood for bridle removal, but actually dropped her head to make it easier, and she got lots of hugs and loving for that. Now we just need to maintain that return to normal routine.
So I guess what I’m really trying to say is this. Give yourself a break.
I’ll leave you with this one thought, which is something I tell all my students.
“I don’t expect perfection. All I expect is that you strive for it.”
Happy riding :)