An opportunity to study and teach equine behaviour and research in the classroom provided more insights into the way horses think and learn.
“Good luck!” it’s heard countless times a day at the horse show in-gate. Yet we know better – horse show success is more than luck!
A horse show validates the skills you’ve acquired in the classroom of the training ring when tested in a different environment – the competition ring. Steps skipped in mastering the phonics and formulas of horsemanship will show up later in the exam!
As a horse show judge, I am giving and grading your next horse show “exam”. As a riding coach, I help you study for it!
So here are my final 3 tips to prepare for your next competition:
In the let-down of cancelled horse shows and fairs, as a judge, my 2020 calendar has a bunch of crossed out weekends. But as a riding coach, I’ve been encouraged by something – riders are taking lessons and working diligently on their homework in between.
• They’re preparing for next season.
• They’re repairing from last season.
Schooling shows, provincial competitions , national championships– quizzes, tests and exams. This unplanned “off-season” is a time to be mastering riding skills and working through them in your practice ring so you can have a well-rehearsed answer when the question presents itself in the horse show ring.
Rounding the corner into our 8th month of restrictions and cancellations – we’re getting weary.
Like that 2nd arena lap of posting trot without stirrups, when you’re losing your poise and realize it’s only your head nodding up and down. I advise the riders I coach to work without stirrups or in two- point position for only a lap at a time. Fatigue leaves us sloppy – grabbing for leather or a fistful of mane with the next spook or stumble. Yet, saddles slip and manes pull out.
I love when horses hunt the trail obstacles – bridges, water boxes or tarps. Checking out the footing, as if to consider the risks and plan the route across.
How solid is the foundation? How deep the water? Will the tarp move once I commit? Is anything lurking underneath?
Logically, a horse, unlike his rider, doesn’t have this information at the outset. He has to test it…by faith.
Uncertain times like these can shake us up, can’t they? Election. Epidemic. Economic recession. When our stability’s threatened and all that’s familiar is beginning to crumble…
Our horses, in their unique design, respond to subtle signals preceding our deliberate cues. Another reason, besides great equitation scores in the show ring, to practice quiet seat and hands is to make it easier for the horse to detect these subtle pre-signals Intentional cues will go unnoticed in sea of random, meaningless rider movements—the turbulence of flapping, pumping or clenching that a horse will learn to ignore.
As a riding coach, I always hope to convey the beauty, even musical quality of the horse –human dynamic. But to do it in a clear, evidence- based, no- jargon way!
Speaking in equitation science terms of pounds of pressure, inches, metres or geometry can be more helpful to riders than “More”, “Look up”, “Rounder” or “Hands still” in answering the Questions:
“What should I do with my body?” and “What, exactly, should it look like?”
By describing skills from a biomechanical point of view, rather than a subjective description of what to do with their bodies, riders can improve their technique…
“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if [Thanksgiving], he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if [Thanksgiving], perhaps, means a little bit more.”
As I count my blessings topping my list are, funnily enough, what I haven’t received. Not only what I’ve been given, but what I’ve be spared from. Amazing graces… I’ve never been significantly injured by horses. It still amazes me. In those naïve and reckless young rider years, in training hundreds of horses as a professional, falling off, dragged, struck at and run into- but never hurt.