As riders, we can get caught up in the drama and gossip at our stables. We can agree or disagree with each other when it comes to horsemanship approaches. We can focus on the upcoming competitions and strive for first place. Among it all, we can lose focus on our key values and find ourselves in a place where we never thought we'd go.
It's time to step back and assess our situation. What are your values?
I think we can all agree that the horse's well-being is a top priority for us as riders. We put our horses first, even before ourselves. A good rider will admit that they are at fault and not blame the horse. So when you've found yourself so focused on winning (or whatever it may be) and you're using more severe bits and spurs than you thought you'd ever use, where do you go from there? Claiming that the horse has become desensitised is not the answer nor is blaming your trainer. If a horse can still feel a fly land on his stomach, he's not desensitised and a trainer cannot force you into doing something you don't want to do.
Sometimes it's best to take it back to basics. Forget about riding complex dressage tests or challenging jump courses. Bring your tack and artificial aids back to a minimum and practice getting a response from a softer leg, seat or rein aid. It may take some time for your horse to get back to this way of riding, but it's worth it in the long run.
Some of my other values when it comes to riding included honesty and trust. You need to be honest with yourself and your horse. Own up to your mistakes and move forward. Though this may be easier said than done, don't forget that your horse is a sensitive being. He can pick up when you're tense from refusing to admit your mistakes even when others won't. If you can't be honest and true with your horse, how can he be honest and true with you?
This is where trust falls into place. Both you and your horse are a team. You need to trust each other and know that you can work together. As challenging as it might be, a rider cannot take full control of the task at hand. You need to be able to trust your horse enough to know that he will do what you ask of him correctly. He also has a mind of his own and if you don't believe that he's going to jump the fence in front of you, there are great chances that he won't.
What are some of your values that you have as a rider? Write them in the comments below or make your own blog post about them. I think most riders will have similar values, but we just tend to forget about them during our day to day lives. It's important to keep them in focus though. That way, the horse will always benefit from what we are doing.
Until next time, happy riding!