It’s a bit of a rarity in the horse world, but it’s something we all look and strive for: an easy, uncomplicated ride.
At its essence, it seems impossible. True riding, by anyone’s standards, is neither easy or uncomplicated. Every part of your body has an influence on your horse’s. Even the best trained riders and horses can’t quite manage perfection, and there’s always the infinitely yawning “room for improvement.”
Even those who don’t compete don’t always have the most easy, uncomplicated rides. Maybe some previously unseen wildlife skitters across your horse’s path during a trail ride, or the spooky corner in the indoor raises a particularly nasty ghost; regardless of the event, even the easiest horses can revert back to their instinctual flight response.
I’m not one for easy and uncomplicated. I like feisty, brave horses who have minds of their own. I’ve always felt like I get more out of them than I do out of the dopy push-buttons who will gladly run into a wall if that’s where you steer them. And there is nothing in this world like the moment a hot, opinionated horse learns to trust you and defers to your better judgement on an issue.
Star is not an easy, uncomplicated ride. I occasionally wonder about the years ahead. If by the time my 2-year-old daughter has enough leg to sit on a 16.2″ horse, if Star will have mellowed enough to be a workable mount for her. Only time will tell, I suppose, but I have my doubts.
For a multitude of reasons, some of which (e.g., the looming RPSI inspection) I’ll get into later, I’ve had a couple of stressful weeks. It’s usually my MO to throw a leg over and get out of my head a bit in times like this. This time, though, I was so in my head that I was worried about just riding properly. After her solid showing over the Father’s Day weekend, I really didn’t want to muddy the waters with Star. So I worked a lot on the line, lunging and trotting her around in-hand.
It wasn’t supposed to happen, but two of my regular lessons were cancelled, and suddenly I’d been on Star once in almost two weeks. Anyone who’s had a green, hot, or young horse knows what sort of nonsense comes out of it not being ridden consistently. Sure enough, I had do deal with a good amount of attitude. I managed to stay on, but I felt hitchy and like I was riding quite poorly. My own fault, of course, for not forcing myself to ride before then.
Regardless, yesterday came and I did force myself to get on. I wasn’t going to be asking for much. A bit of collected, working walk, some rhythmic trotting, and most importantly a straight canter that was buck free and reasonably paced.
Maybe Star knew I needed a break. Maybe I was just so maxed out that it made me ride quietly with crystal clear instructions. Whatever the case, as I cantered reasonably around the indoor—feeling her mouth up my arm and into my elastic elbows—I felt my spirit give a bit of an exhale. It was an easy, uncomplicated ride. I didn’t have to really think or correct. I asked her to go faster and she did. Asked her to collect and slow and she did that too.
I got off feeling pretty darn thankful for my mare. She may not be an easy horse that anyone can hop on and enjoy, but she’s mine and she does the best she can for me. Whenever I’ve needed her to step up for me, she’s never let me down. Maybe it’s time I realize that I need to be ready to step up for her too.
Riding is a two-heart, two-body, two-mind enterprize. Maybe it’s time for me to acknowledge that I often get back what I give in. Maybe it’s time that I do my best to be an easy, uncomplicated rider.
Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Jumper Circuit and Warmblood Breed inspections. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.