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Betsy Carter’s Horse Scene: Nervous? A horse will know

I RECENTLY READ A quote that went something like this: “You get what you ride.”

I’ve heard similar mantras regarding the relationship between horse and rider, such as “It’s always the rider’s fault.” In other words, whenever you ride, you are training your horse—good or bad.

“You get what you ride,” though, seemed more succinct than the other sayings. It doesn’t place blame, and it doesn’t complicate the riding/training process.

I like it for its simplicity in a sport that deals with very complicated issues of communicating with an animal. It reminds you to pay attention to what you ask of your horse, without removing the complexity of communicating with an animal.

It emphasizes self-examination. It asks you to be aware of your riding position and how you cue your horse. That’s the intentional part and the part that’s easier to fix. You can practice putting your legs, hands and seat in the right place, and you can practice cueing your horse to walk, trot/jog, canter/lope and halt correctly.

The tricky part is the unintentional cueing of information to our horses. This part of “you get what you ride” is more about your own temperament. If you are nervous, aggressive or easily distracted, you will probably transmit this trait to your horse.

Your temperament is the part of the equation that is difficult to control in your riding. You must recognize the problem to control it and overcome it.

However, riding is a partnership consisting of you and an animal, which is often very sensitive and does not think as you think. You cannot force or train a horse to think as you think. As the more-intelligent thinking partner, you must train yourself to think like a horse.

This part of riding is the most difficult and takes a quiet Zen-like attitude. The noise in your head that keeps telling you how to ride has got to shut up, so your instinct can be heard because instincts whisper.

To understand this concept, picture how some really great riders look when they are riding. They never seem to be doing anything. Do they? They seem to be just sitting while the horses magically do what the rider wants them to do. And they always get the most wonderful performances out of their horses.

I think they have the talent we all wish we had and this talent is to ride instinctively, quietly, listening to the horse. It seems as if the horse and rider are thinking the same thing, and they are thinking it through the mind of the horse.

Betsy Carter can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; or by fax at 540/373-8455.

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