When I first told the non horsey people in my life that I was taking a lesson last weekend, that was the first thing that popped out of their mouth. It was said with honest surprise – having been riding for 30 years now, why on earth would I pay someone to come tell me how to ride?
They just couldn’t fathom how, after so many years, there would be anything worth paying to learn.
That is the thing with riding though – there is always more to learn. There is always a new level, a new discipline, a new goal. Or heck, a new horse that flips everything you thought you knew on its head.
I spent the first 23 years of my riding life on trails. I rode up, down, over, under, around absolutely everything at any speed without a single hesitation. I would jump logs on trail, swim in the deepest rivers, climb mountains and scale back down laying flat against my horse’s butt as we slid down. I raced other riders at a full blown gallop down a trail in Acadia, Maine and strolled across the battlefield of Gettysburg.
It was a fantastic time in my life.
Maybe I had a magical unicorn of a horse to ride. Maybe I was just more fearless and less tense when I was younger. Maybe my ignorance allowed a lot of things to happen. I don’t know, but I can tell you that I lost that fearlessness a long time ago.
I lost it in the form of a horse named Gem.
You see, Gem wont stand for ignorance. If I am not riding right and giving it my 100% attention, she lets me know. Usually by dumping me. She won’t give me an inch that I haven’t earned and she sure as hell won’t bail me out.
And that is why, after 30 years of riding, I am taking basic, beginner type lessons. The trail taught me a lot. It taught me balance, too look where I am headed at all times, to anticipate the unexpected, to lead.
It did not teach me to turn my shoulders, open my hip angle, and loosen up those elbows. It did not teach me how to give a little rein here, take a little there. Add more leg, then half halt to check back in and keep that rhythm even and steady. To see my horse’s eyelashes as we go around the circle to ensure she has at least a minimum amount of bend. To push her out and bring her back in with just my seat and legs.
There are so many nuances to riding that I know nothing about. That is why I am taking lessons. To become better. To become lighter.