As many of you who follow my page on facebook already know, I spent this past weekend at our barn. Every year, we have an adult riding weekend where we focus on theory, skill-mastery, and new learning.
This year’s theme was “Push Yourself”, but I feel like there was an even more important theme present. Every time we did an exercise or listened to lecture, there was always a common theme:
Communication with the horse
Probably the most common type of communication we think of when it comes to riding is the communication with the horse. We do this through aids, like our voice and seat. I think sometimes, we see this as a one-way street; we think that if we tell the horse to do something in just the right way we can get whatever we want.
This is partially true.
Just like my instructor told us, “if you do not get the correct lead it is your fault”. And it is. Horses do not know that you’re about to attempt a figure eight, or straight-line lead changes. They just know how to “horse”.
However, communication is more than that. One of the greatest learning experiences was when we practiced the straight-line lead changes, and I stood between the cones, ready to go. I began to give the signals, and at first I didn’t quite get the response I wanted. I thought I was giving the right signal, but I realized that the horse was trying to tell me that he wasn’t quite ready to go yet. Sometimes, he was trying to tell me that I should have let him canter earlier, or that I was sitting unbalanced and he couldn’t pick up the right lead. We are constantly giving signals to our horses, but we are also listening at the same time. It is a conversation between rider and horse. It is not, and never will be an order.
Communication with others
It is also important to communicate with others. We cannot go this road alone, as much as some of us introverts (like myself) would like to believe. One of our first tasks for the weekend was to see who could name the most horses at the LEC. Since I have worked quite a bit at the barn, I was confident in my ability to name all 51 horses. However, there is something to be learned from this experience. Sure, I could name all of the horses and be the “winner”, but I could also help others and they could leave learning even more. Sometimes, we do not need to make something a competition when it doesn’t need to be. On the second day, we briefly got to ride in pairs through the arena. Since most of us had never participated in drill team-style riding, this was a new experience and definitely a learning curve. We had to communicate with our partner in order to stay together, or else we would break the formation and fail at the task.
Communication with yourself.
On the very first day, my instructor told us that “knowledge ends where frustration begins”. I had never considered this until now, but communication with yourself is extremely important. We constantly tell ourselves that we are not good enough, we question if we are in the right division, riding the right horse, or even if we should be in this sport at all. We are frustrated when we fail. We let our victories blind us.
We have to learn to communicate with ourselves. I remember criticising myself after trying (and failing to complete) the two straight-line lead changes. But I also remembered that I would get nowhere and accomplish nothing if I let my frustrations take over. I took a deep breath, told myself I could do it this time.
And I tried one more time.
And I succeeded.
And I think that this is what communication is all about. It is about giving the horse, yourself, and others permission to try one more time. We do this despite frustration, pride, and fear.
So, push yourself to be a better communicator. Because no one else is going to do it for you.