“In order to become a more advanced rider, you have to find a way to do less, do it sooner, smaller, and confidently…” – Anna Blake, Author and Equestrian
I am always trying to advance my riding skills. This is not for the benefit of anyone who might be watching, other than maybe the stables owner Judy. One of my worst fears is that Judy sees me do something unintentionally stupid that makes her tell me that I am not worthy to ride her horse Sportie, no matter how many chores I do for that privilege. I don’t take a second of my time with him for granted, and I love Judy for making my weekends the magical country retreat they have been for almost three years now.
So apart from my fear of Judy, the reason I want to be a better rider is that Sportie is the best horse and deserves no less. Throughout my life, I have felt this connection with other horses before, but have never had to work as hard for it as I have with this gorgeous gelding with the splashed white face. He is the best riding instructor I’ve ever had. He has taught me that less is more, and timing is everything. He has taught me the smaller the cue the better, and if I don’t have confidence in myself then don’t expect him to either.
Sportie teaches me that if I am not clearly using my mind, reins, voice, weight, and legs in complete agreement then I have abdicated all right to choose which speed or direction we will be going. I am reminded of when Tiger Woods rebuilt his swing early in the 2000’s after he had been playing great golf. I thought ‘why fix what’s not broken?’ Because when he came back he played even greater golf, for a few years at least.
I thought I could ride pretty well when I met Sportie in 2014 but he knew I could do better. He has rebuilt my riding skills in so many ways – a buck here, a rear there, a quick sidestep here, sometimes if I’m really not paying attention an 180-degree turn and canter back to the gate. Every one of his lessons teaches me that he isn’t going to listen until I am worth listening to. I strive to be a rider worth listening to every single ride.
Sportie gets my vote for Teacher of the Year.