But— But— But—

23 FEBRUARY, 2008 It was our turn to canter, and I put my whip in my outside hand, as I have been doing in my private lessons, and Fiona said to put it in my inside hand, which I know, but Rebel seems to get the message best when it’s delivered to his off hind, but I put it in my inside hand, and I was giving the aid and giving the aid, and he wouldn’t canter, and he was doing his fast trot thing, and Fiona said to get back to the front of the ride and try again, and Mercury, who will canter at the merest suggestion of the thought of cantering, tried to take his turn, and Lorraine got him back in the queue, and we went again, and I tapped Reb on the near hind, and he picked it up, and then we had to change the lead, but I mostly sat back and we made it around the arena, God, and I’m told that I know Rebel well enough by now to know that that’s what it takes to get him to go, and I know that, and we trot and then we walk and I want to say, ‘But in my other lesson—’ but I don’t, because I already know that it makes no odds.

That’s basically a demonstration of the runaway train that my mind becomes when I have to correct something I thought was okay to begin with.

I’m learning a lot from all my instructors, in the main that every single one of them has a different way, and ne’er the ways shall meet.

Well, now, that’s not entirely true. They all agree on the heels down, head up, chin down, sit back business. Along with ‘hands down’, this seems to me to comprise the backbone of proper riding. The details, though, differ wildly.

If I’m told to carry my outside hand in one lesson, in another I’m told to lower it. If I’m not recovering my seat fast enough on Saturday, it’s because I was sitting up too soon on Thursday. I’m told to give Reb a brisk series of half halts when he starts pulling like a train; when I do this in front of another instructor, I get told off [in the gentlest way imaginable, I must point out, and given a series of options to employ to get his attention back on the work and less on hot pursuit of the arse of the lead horse.]

It’s only as confusing as I allow it to be, I suppose. There’s an element of performance panic in this— didn’t do what I’m meant to do and everybody’s watching— and the ego business that I find so fascinating. Not so fascinating, though, when you’re in the middle of trying to do something, and being told to correct it, and again, if you thought you were doing it okay to begin with, the adjustment is actually less like firing a different synapse than leaping a tall building in a single bound.

In terms of the bigger picture, I have a deep well of techniques to draw from, so when I ride horses I’ve never ridden before, I can try any number of things I’ve learned from the repertoires of different teachers. As regards the small one though, I wish I’d kept the crop in my outside hand, and used it.

Because I am able to make decisions for myself, in the arena. We were finishing off with jumping a double, and we needed a decent trot, and Rebel wasn’t cooperating, dragging his hooves, and rather than hope he’d hit the accelerator once we got near the first fence, I turned him a circle to give him the chance to build up his momentum. This pleased Fiona no end.

This is riding actively and independently. With time I hope not to get so flustered when I ‘do something wrong’ and stick to my guns if it’s right for me. I’m not annoyed about the correction, other than my own reaction to it, but I would very much like to remember that I’m striving to ride from my own head, and not from the voice of the teacher. Getting there.

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3 Replies to “But— But— But—”

  1. It can be so confusing when you’re getting such contradictory directions…

    This isn’t exactly relevant [what, me be relevant?] but I recall vividly, when I was doing my Uni entrance exams way back in 1986, I had a really pretentious uppity Eng. Lit. teacher. She kept giving me Cs and I’d always been an A student so this was tragic! Then I figured out that she wanted pretentious uppity essays where ten words did the work of one, and that’s what I gave her. First time out I got an A+.

    I guess so long as you’re not in an exam situation or truly being judged [not just what’s going on in your head – oh I know well how LOUD and annoying that “little” voice can be], ride Reb and do whatever way works for you and him to have fun; take the path of least resistance with instructors unless it really isn’t working and you AREN’T having fun. From the sounds of it, and what you’ve said before, Reb will end up pushing the envelope so you’ll have to go through the options menu anyway!

  2. The hardest thing about riding is different instructors. You either find one you love and stick with that, or better still take all the bits that work for you from various instructors.

  3. Every horse needs to be ridden differently so you need as many tricks up your sleeve as possible when you first sit on them. Your instructors have prob ridden Reb and are telling you what works for them, don’t be afraid to tell them it’s not working, they have a different balance, experience, seat and habits than you so if it’s not working and you tell them they’ll give you something else to try and that’s when you’ll see that they all have similar bits of knowledge to give.

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