Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

TIR - Take every learning opportunity

Alright so let's go with day two on the traits of *improving riders blog :)   And no, I'm sorry, this is definitely *not* going to be an every day thing!  hahaha tomorrow and Saturday I already know are fully booked.   Only getting this post because my wonderful working student Amy is doing the barn for me in the am so I don't have to be there till 10 :)   And there are only so many traits on my list (although I admit it grows at weird times - like 3am when I'm supposed to be asleep :)

*edited after fb post because I realized as I posted it that this series isn't even really so much traits of GOOD riders as traits of IMPROVING riders. I know lots of excellent riders who are completely stalled in their progress. And lots of more novice riders who improve noticeably every week. This is targeting those who wish to *improve*.

Today we're going with "take every learning opportunity" -- now you'd think this'd be a given, but you'd be amazed at how many people turn down chances to learn.

Again - there's a huge number (arguably the vast majority) of riders who are in it because it's fun and they love the animals and that's the end of it.  Maybe it's stress relief, maybe it's just the best part of your day :)   But whatever the reason, while you'd like to improve it's not necessarily the be-all and end-all of your barn experience.   And that's totally fine.  This post is not directed at you :)

But if *improving* your riding is your primary goal, take every chance you get!   For instance -- if I'm at the barn or riding around and one of my students is riding in the same area, I'll often offer them a mini-lesson.  And I pretty much always remember to ask if they actually *want* one :)   And given that I tend to attract competitive, high-motivated types the vast majority will take me up on it.  But there are several who will say no.  This used to happen often at other schools.  And that's totally cool -- I'm not offended or concerned if they'd rather work on their own or even just not work at all (see yesterday's post :) BUT I have noticed a direct correlation between those people and the ones who are likely to sit at the same level indefinitely.

And of course the follow up on that -- go to any clinics you can.  I'm always puzzled by students who tell me how important improving their riding is who don't sign up for clinics offered at home.  There is something to be learned from everybody!   Now that being said -- to my own students there are some clinicians I would recommend more highly than others, and some I might deem inappropriate based on current abilities of either the rider or the horse.  But for the most part, if somebody who knows their job is willing to teach it to you -- go learn it :)

Another opportunity I see skipped way too often -- observation.  If you're not *riding* in a clinic, why not go watch it?  Most clinics you can audit for a reasonable fee and sometimes learn as much (if different points) as the riders!   Or on a day-to-day at home basis - if you're in a group lesson and waiting your turn for something, actively watch the others go.   Don't just sit there daydreaming or thinking about what you're doing tomorrow (side note - for those with extreme nerves who sit there panicking about your upcoming turn, go FIRST; then you don't have time to stress AND you can learn from watching others after because you're not busy stressing!)   And notice I said "actively watch" the other riders.  As in not just "oh look there goes Suzy..."  But from every ride you watch pick one thing you want to steal (ie that they did beautifully) and be aware of one thing that has room for improvement.   Getting each of those out of one ride can sometimes be more of a challenge than you'd think :)  hahaha  And the more specific you are, the more valuable it'll be.  Ie - "the way she kept her leg glued in exactly the right position over the fence" is significantly more useful than "she had nice eq".  One you can mimic, the other has so many pieces it's hard to translate to your own body.  And it doesn't have to be all rider position "that was the perfect place to turn" is totally useful and valid -- it's why going last on a course makes it significantly easier; everybody else has made the mistakes for you!   Learn from them :)   Then before your turn, visualize all the things you're going to steal from the rides you've already seen and go do it. That way you get two, or three, or four lessons for the price of one.

Look at your photos and videos.   Enjoy them.  Be proud of how far you've come.  And then consider them critically -- what's the next thing you're going to fix?   And again - pick one specific thing.  "It's all horrible" is not constructive.  "I need to release more" gives you something specific to work on.  If you're not sure how to fix it, ask.  If you're not sure what to fix, ask :)   You may find the answer is something you've heard in your lessons a zillion times but never really made the connection to.

There are all sorts of ways to learn that don't involve actually riding.  Be a barn rat -- muck a zillion stalls, wrap thousands of legs, treat minor injuries, deal with high horses on a windy day -- all the behind the scenes work will make you a far better horsewoman (or man :).  And if you can read your horse better on the ground, you'll have a much better chance in the saddle.   Go to shows - any level, any discipline.  Particularly good if it's a discipline that's NOT your style of choice so long as you go with an open mind.   I try to hit Palgrave h/j and dr shows at least once/year even if I'm not showing.  And here's a hint -- if you really want to learn, lurk the w/u rings.   Remember that auditing idea?   Free auditing from a dozen different coaches right there.  And again, watch actively.  Consider what they're telling their students.  What do they focus on?  Why?  Do you agree?  Why?  Why not?   You can learn watching the competitors in the ring as well -- what makes one ride more successful than another?  Why would one rider choose one line while another chooses a different one?  But personally I prefer to lurk the warmups :)   Another way is to volunteer at the horse shows -- our competitors can always use extra hands and jump judges are needed at *every* horse trial.   Great way to learn -- watch an entire division jump the same fence.  Who does it well?  Who makes it look scary?  What was the difference between the two rides?    And lastly, read.  I have both Practical Horseman and Equus available at the barn -- open one of them :)   PH for riding, Equus for horsemanship.   Do I agree with everything that's published?  No, of course not.  But the thing is -- I know enough to know I disagree and why.   Do you?  If not - start educating yourself.

There are so many ways you can learn above and beyond your weekly lesson.   Try them out!  And if you have questions, ask :)


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