How much Responsibility do we take for our own Learning?

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own learning, good bad or indifferent, and we are lucky if we find a teacher who provides all the answers. In fact, I would say that it is impossible to find anyone who can give you all the answers and even if they could, what is absolutely 100% correct for them may not be the same "correctness" for you. Just because someone is a successful rider does not mean that they can teach. Some talented riders have no idea what they do so are quite incapable of imparting any meaningful knowledge to someone else. Worse still, they may be telling their pupils to emulate some idiosyncrasy of their own which has little to do with their success as a rider and is actually detrimental for other riders. My heart always sinks when a new pupil tells me that such-and-such a rider/trainer can make her horse do all sorts of wonderful "tricks" when it is perfectly obvious to me that neither horse nor rider have sufficient understanding of the basics. Confidence takes years to build and only seconds to ruin and it is very important that both horse and rider work within their capabilities; led up to the edge without being pushed over it.

I agree with the Tai Chi Master, that everything is possible with patience and perseverance and that it is vital to cross reference and search beyond the information given by your teacher. All good teachers should encourage their pupils to search for "more" and while flitting from one teacher to another depending on who happens to be the flavour of the month has little use, intelligent cross referencing is extremely useful.

Outside of your riding lesson time, there are plenty of ways in which to enhance your learning either by reading books or by exploring complimentary techniques eg: NLP and visulisation, physical exercise other than riding, massage, Alexander Technique, Pilates etc… etc.

During the riding lessons, use your teacher like a living mirror which provides verbal feedback. Sometimes a "Yes" at the appropriate moment is all that is needed. Sometimes the feedback is needed in much more detail. ("What I am seeing is that the horse bends left and pushes the saddle off to the right causing you to sit crookedly on the horse, leaning left with your upper body to compensate for sliding right with your seat"). In this way, you can usefully experiment to gain a correct "feel" while being guided by your "mirror". "Sit straight!" is of no use to a rider who has no understanding of her crookedness and how to correct it. In fact it is more use for the rider to experiment with the position and exaggerate the crookedness or make a mirror image of it so that he/she starts to develop his/her own feel for what is right.

Useful Experimentation

First there are a few "MUST HAVES"

  • A good attitude to the horse
  • A correct seat
  • A lack of tension
  • A positive attitude.

Without these there is no true horsemanship and no real progression - a rider cannot experiment effectively if they have not yet learnt sufficient control over their own bodies and emotions. However, a novice rider can very usefully explore the possibilities within their own limitations. For example, even a real beginner can walk and halt without losing the "4 must haves". Some useful experimentation might be:

  • Can you feel how your horse is standing
  • Can you feel which is the last leg to step into halt
  • Can you feel which is the first leg to move into walk
  • Can you feel each leg as it steps
  • Can you measure the pace of your horse so that he steps over a pole with his right fore first
  • Can you halt with the front legs one side of a pole and the back legs the other side of a pole

These are all quite challenging exercises even to an experienced rider yet are very easy to practice and will greatly improve your feel and communication with your horse.

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