Riding Lesson Hiatus
This week will be my last riding lesson for a few months. I keep mentioning this, sprinkled throughout my blog posts, I will be having surgery on May 23rd. I know a lot of women have gone through this surgery, and everything has worked out just fine. I am so nervous about this, which I think is why I keep mentioning it. But the hardest thing for me after the surgery is I will not be able to ride at all for at least 8 weeks. And no lifting over 20 pounds either. This means I will be relying on my husband a lot to care for my horses while I am recovering.
So no more going to the barn to ride every Thursday, at least for a few months. And with that thought firmly implanted into my brain, I have been thinking about my riding lessons and what they have taught me in these past 5 months. I try to think back to the first time I rode at the barn, and what that was like along with what I have learned.
How To Learn
From the first lesson, my instructor has taught me how to learn. Probably because of the repetitive nature of what we do at each lesson. But also because when I come home from my lesson, I write down how my lesson went. Each week since January I have written a blog post going over my weekly lesson. Hopefully it has been helpful, or motivated you to go ride your horse! But by writing down what we did at each lesson, the lesson is solidified in my brain. And then I recap the previous lesson while I am driving to the barn. I think about what went right, and what I struggled with.
And on the way to the barn I think about what it is that I want to work on for the next lesson. I try to focus on what went right, and how that felt. It takes 10,000 hours to become a master of anything, and while I don’t have 10,000 hours of riding or learning yet, I am well on my way. I am an active participant in my lesson and my instructor has helped me to get better with each lesson on my way to 10,000 hours.
How To Listen
Instead of shutting out what I hear, and doing things my own way, I have learned what it means to be an active listener while I am in my lesson. By paying attention to the words that are coming out of my instructors mouth, I am able to do what she is asking me to do. I trust her. She is after all the professional, and she has seen this before. So I listen to what she is asking me to do, and then apply it. I know I have been successful when I hear her voice rise a little as she tells me I am doing something right.
Learning how to really listen to what someone is telling you is a real gift, in my opinion. I am listening to adsorb her knowledge, her expertise, instead of listening to respond to what she is saying. If you can truly listen to what someone is saying, it will help you especially when you are striving to improve yourself.
Applying What I have Learned
With each and every lesson, I have learned something that I can take with me to improve my riding. And then I take the information I have learned by riding a schoolmaster horse, and I practice it at my own barn. I apply what I have learned with my own horses. It also gives me an appreciation to the skills the lesson horses have, and how I can work with my horses to be the same.
So the day after my lesson, I go home and practice with my own horses. This can be something as simple as getting my horse to stand while I groom him and tack him up. Or rearranging my own tack room to emulate the lesson barn’s tack room, to make it easier to tack up. Or adding dressage letters to my arena so I can practice my two-point in my own arena. I also act as if my instructor is there with me, watching me ride and I think about what she would be telling me if she were there.
Even though my instructor is not with me at my own arena, I think about what she would ask me to do if she were there. This has helped me to stay consistent with my alone riding, and I don’t just walk in endless circles at home. I have a goal, even if it is smaller than it would be at my lesson. And I focus on that goal in my alone time riding.
Feeling Through Riding
I still find myself looking down at the shoulder while I am working on my diagonals. But I can feel the correct one now. I can feel when I am off, and sit two bounces to get the correct diagonal as we trot around the arena. This is something that has eluded me in my riding for years. In fact, I never really knew what the correct diagonal was until I started my lessons.
I can honestly feel which leg in on the ground now, without looking. Maybe this is because I have been paying attention to it now, or maybe it’s because I have been doing it so much for the past 5 months. But the important thing is that I am becoming an active participant in my riding. I am not simply getting on the horse and hanging on while he does his thing. I am being responsible for what I am asking the horse to do.
Probably one of the most important things I have learned is how to be more balanced in the saddle. The repetition of riding and practicing at the different gaits has helped me to improve my balance in the saddle, and what to do to stay balanced. I have also learned how my balance effects the horse I am riding.
Something as simple as riding in two-point around and around the arena has helped me to not fall forward in the saddle and to not rely on the reins, so I don’t yank on my horse’s mouth. Learning balance while trotting over poles and cantering around the arena. Again, to be an active participant in my riding, and not just sitting there.
I know my balance will continue to improve as I continue to ride. But even when I can’t ride, there are things I can do to work on having better balance. Simple exercises like putting my weight into my heels while standing on a stair, this is something I can continue to work on while I am recovering after surgery.
Riding Is Fun Again
And the biggest takeaway from my lessons, riding is fun again. Thanks to the lesson horses, and my instructor, I have found my confidence again while I ride. I can walk, trot, and canter when asked. And my stomach doesn’t flip over and become a giant butterfly nest in anticipation of what I am going to be asked to do. Instead of getting nervous about being asked to do something, I just do it and think about how I can do it better. My focus has done a complete 180 as my thought process has changed.
Instead of becoming scared when my instructor asks me to do something new, I have learned to go with the flow, and give it a try. Yes, I won’t be perfect, but I can continue to practice and learn how to do it correctly, and get better.
What My Riding Lessons Have Taught Me
I have learned so much in my lessons. My riding has improved more in the last 5 months with professional instruction. And when I look back to what I have learned, and applying that knowledge at home, the instruction has been the best thing I could have done for my riding. I have learned more in the past 5 months than I have in the last 10 years of riding on my own.
My lessons have given me a new level of confidence as well as a higher level of dedication to working with my horses at home. I really think that the cost of the lesson made me really want to get the most out of each lesson. Something about paying for knowledge makes you want to work harder. I mean I am investing my hard earned dollars, and I want to get something for my hard earned dollars, right? I know it sounds simple but it’s true. If you spend money on it, you are more likely to work harder, so you get your money’s worth. I know I have gotten my money’s worth out of the lessons I have had. And the renewed confidence I have is well worth the money and time I have invested in myself, and being a better rider.