I spent three years in the UK, having lived there for 5 years previously, which was sandwiched between Hong Kong and Singapore. During that time I came across many different types of riding, riding discipline, instructors and coaches. I gave most of it a go - competed in dressage, eventing, show jumping, polo as well as Western disciplines. I rode the trail in each of those countries, even when we called it hacking out!
One thing remained constant: I needed control of the horse's feet
This is not to say that I didn't want to have the best possible relationship with my horse or I didn't want the happiest horse on the planet, it was just the bottom line - without this I realised, I didn't even have a place to start.
I also found that I didn't need this anymore or less, given the different disciplines - not to do any of them well at least. I could certainly ride a chukka of polo or go on a hack with less control of the feet than I needed in a dressage arena or show jumping course but I'd be less safe and less confident in those situations, as would my horse.
That realisation simplified things for me and I quickly worked out that, in the process of getting that control, I also got all of those other things I wanted - relaxation and engagement from the horse, a calm and focused ride, a confident horse and huge increase in my confidence as a rider.
What did the horse and I lose in this process? The biggest things my horses lost were all of those anxiety-related behaviours and the resulting conflict, such as shying and spooking. The biggest thing I lost was that feeling of crossing my fingers and hoping for the best - you know what I mean when you hear yourself saying "gosh, I hope this goes well" as you mount.
Don't forget to leave me a comment below and tell me about one of your 'ah-ha' moments.
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