Here there be dragons...

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

TIR - Whatever your excuse is, it is time to stop believing it.

So today's Traits of Improving Riders is both one of the easiest and one of the hardest to apply.  And it makes a HUGE difference.   And that is - take responsibility for your own riding.

Some of this goes with the last post - if you want to ride, find a way to ride.  Take every opportunity to learn.  Etc etc.  I'm not going to repeat that -- you can scroll down if you'd like a review :)   But it goes beyond that.

I'm always amazed when I'm doing an assessment lesson and somebody is doing something horrifically wrong and I ask them about it and without fail "well that's what my coach told me to do".  Ok well why?  "I don't know."   And this whole scenario just makes me want to bang my head against the wall.   Now this is *not* a case of "different people do things differently" -- that is an entirely different scenario.  Different sports teach differently and different trainers may train slightly different aids, and different coaches teach with different focuses.  And for novice riders - coaches will all prioritize skills slightly differently, so students may know things in a different order than how I would choose to teach them.  None of that is wrong or bad.  And that is entirely why we do assessment lessons so I can find out where people are in their knowledge and abilities.  No, the above case is when something is - by any standard - wrong.   A couple examples I've seen a few times - downward transitions by standing up and pulling or jumping by standing straight up in the stirrups and hanging on to either the reins or the mane to stay on.  Oh dear.

Now, were they taught incorrectly?  Very likely.  And if they're truly novice riders, sobeit.  But for those who've been riding 5 or 10 or 20 years -- at some point you need to stop and consider.  If you want to improve, you have to take responsibility for your own riding.  Stop and think.  Ask questions.  Why doesn't your riding look like the pros?  If you're not sure, ask your coach.  They may be able to explain why, but if not maybe it's time for another opinion.  If everything else with your coach is amazing, it could be as simple as a clinic -- pick up the missing piece from another pro.  Whatever it takes, the responsibility is yours.

To ride effectively you need to know not only *how* to ride but *why*.  With just how, you can only really ride carousel horses.  Knowing how the aids are supposed to work is good - in theory.   Say for riding a 20m circle -- inside leg at the girth, outside leg slightly back, shoulders and hips turned the same direction as travel, direct inside rein for flexion, supporting outside rein.  Sounds good right?  Ok but what happens if you have somebody feeding your horse's favourite type of grain on one side of the circle and on the opposite side the neighbour's pet lion having a meltdown.  All of a sudden just knowing how to ride the circle isn't going to work because your circle will be strongly influenced by outside factors.  If you know *why* the aids work, you might have a hope of applying them effectively and pulling off the perfect 20m circle -- despite the lions :)   And trust me - in dressage, there are *often* lions.

Don't know why?  Lots of ways to find out :)  Asking your coach is always a good start.  Reading also a good option.

So now you know how and why, there's no excuse not to ride well...   What am I saying?  There's *always* an excuse.  hahaha but the riders who improve rapidly are the ones who tend to put them aside.   I kinda wish I had a list of all the excuses I've heard over the years -- sadly I don't remember the most creative ones :)   But there are lots of standards.  The above "well so-and-so told me so," has already been addressed.   "I'm tired/cold/hot/stiff/sore/stressed/frustrated/insert-your-favourite-excuse-here" also pretty standard.  Then there's the option of blaming the horse "he's too green, too old, too spooky, too big, too small, too fast, too slow, too excited, too lazy, not listening, listening to everything *but* me"...  And of course the tack: "it's the wrong saddle/bridle/bit/stirrups/etc".    Let's see...  Some more entertaining ones...  "The arena's too noisy", "the jumps are too colourful", "the sun is too bright", "the horse doesn't like me", "he doesn't like puddles", "my boots are too dirty", "there was a spider in my helmet!", "she was lying down and I didn't want to get her up", "couldn't find the mounting box", "I have an exam tomorrow" (ummm haven't you known that for weeks?), "I saw a mouse in the barn", "I exercised too much yesterday" or the closely related "I have to exercise tomorrow".  And the list goes on...   hmmm so how many of those have *you* said?  :)

And yes, everybody does it *occasionally* -- and when I hear a really creative excuse I'm usually fairly impressed :)   But the riders who improve the most are those who excuse the least.

But really, even with the best coaches and the most expensive horses in the world, the only person who can ultimately improve your riding is you.  The responsibility is yours.  Choose a coach who can help you, ask intelligent questions, make a point to ride as often as possible, and leave the excuses at home.


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