Oh No! I Can’t Suck At Riding Now? What? Just Ride?

After giving myself tons of permission to completely suck at riding, I surprised myself the other day.  Right in the middle of sucking at riding, I suddenly snatched at myself and said sternly: Jane, Hudson is YOUR horse. You can ride.  You will ride.  You are going to ride well.  Sucking is over, you got that?

For reasons I don’t understand, this worked.  I sat up, took charge, shortened my reins, and rode my horse.  It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but it was…right.

I guess now that I’ve given myself total permission to suck, sucking is not good enough?

The new decree: Just Ride.

No!  No speaking, no dithering, no excuses.  Ride the dang horse. Ride as well as possible, and then forget about it.  Just ride. Stop fussing.

Do. Not Speak.


I startled myself.  Allll righty then.

I’m beginning to wonder if I need to start doing Google searches on “spirit possession”.

This may have something to do with the fact that Katherine announced her retirement this week.  She injured her shoulder badly, and will no longer be taking horses in for training.  Or giving lessons.  Instant grief.  An era, over.

I’m picky about finding the right trainer for us.  I have someone in mind.  It would be slightly unorthodox, but perfect.  I hope we can make it work.

I’m singing a song from when the kids were little: Going on a Bear Hunt?

We’re going on a Trainer hunt!

We’re going on a Trainer hunt!

We’re gonna catch a big one!

We’re gonna catch a big one!

I’m not afraid!

I’m not afraid!

Are you?

Are you?

Not me!

Not me!

If Hudson writes me a note and tells me to take a lesson, he means it.  He’s an incredibly forgiving guy.  I might have taken the Freedom to Suck thing a little too far.  He’s going to have major trainer opinions. Finding the right trainer match is like finding the right marriage counselor.  It has to work for three people.  And one of them isn’t human.

What are your criteria for a good trainer/rider/horse match?



13 thoughts on “Oh No! I Can’t Suck At Riding Now? What? Just Ride?

  1. I’m sorry that your trainer had to retire. A good trainer is worth his or her weight in gold. I had some excellent instructors in my early years but haven’t had a really good one in about 15 years. Not that I’ve tried all that hard to find one, but they are few and far between.

    I want a trainer that’s respectful of me ~ otherwise, forget it ~ and my horse, doesn’t rely on gadgets, knows how to ride off the leg and doesn’t splinter the task of riding into a dozen different things.

  2. This can be difficult! I look, first, for a trainer that uses the classical training scale and doesn’t rush me or my horse. I want a solid foundation. I want it correct. And, I want a trainer who isn’t only focused on warmbloods with Grand Prix potential. I don’t like feeling like the trainer thinks my horse is second class because he’s a Paint.

  3. I started to answer here but realized that my answer was turning into a post. So, killing two birds with one stone, here’s how I choose a trainer: http://equineink.com/2011/02/10/how-to-choose-a-trainer/

    Good luck. It’s always a bummer when the person who has been helping you retires. However, even when I’ve just despaired at losing the absolute best coach/trainer . . . sooner or later I find someone else who is equally good but in a different way.

    1. Perfect! Thanks.
      I’m having this vision of posts all over horsey blogdom talking about how people have chosen trainers…if anyone else writes a post, let me know, we can have a guest link blogging shared thingie!

  4. When I look for instructors, my first criteria is that I won’t tolerate being yelled at or insulted on more than an occasional kick-my-arse-in-gear basis. I don’t care who they are; my life is too short for that. I don’t put up with hand holding and constant platitudes either, but I have had it up to my eyeballs with being yelled at/insulted.

    After that, I want to know that they are on the same general page as me when it comes to riding/instruction. Lessons should focus on both the horse and rider, with more emphasis on improving the horse. The horse should finish the lesson in a better place than they started. The rider should be learning how to achieve that, so that they could go away and duplicate it on their own. Obviously you also have to work on rider position or aids, but I want them coached in terms of the horse: making this change in your body/aids improves this in the horse.

    I also look at the equipment being used on the horses. Every horse should not be gadgeted up to the eyeballs. I’m not a fan of certain pieces of training equipment. I want to know the instructor and students can explain why X horse is in Y equipment. What sort of bits are being used and by whom? I’ll tolerate some bits in an expert’s hands that I would never tolerate in an beginner’s hands.

    And finally, is the instructor going to support my goals? Not the goals she thinks I should have, but my actual goals?

    If all of this checks out, my experience has been that the horses tend to be pretty happy in the program. I don’t have to worry too much about personality conflicts. If issues do start to creep up, this is also the sort of program where I feel confident about addressing them with the instructor/trainer; I wouldn’t be in a program where I felt my concerns would be blown off.

  5. Finding the right trainer isn’t easy. Sometimes the one that’s right for you is wrong for the horse. That’s my most recent experience. The instructor was knowledgeable, challenged me, “got” me and truly helped me ride better; but when she climbed onto my horse, he hated her. I think in part that’s because she made him work, (he’s a PerchTBX with an “only do the minimum” attitude) but I’ve seen him work willingly for another trainer. So I’ve had to weigh my liking the instructor with “Big’s” hating her. I wish you well with your search. Be patient. You’ll find the right one.

  6. That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? For every person who raves about a certain trainer, you can usually find someone who thinks that trainer is rubbish. It’s a very subjective thing.

    I don’t like a trainer who patronizes me. I don’t need my ego stroked, I’m not a delicate little flower. If I’m riding like an idiot, tell me. I won’t cry (not in front of you, anyway). Once you’ve told me what I need to do, leave me alone so I can figure it out. I can’t ride the horse and listen to a constant barrage of words from the center of the arena. It’s too confusing. I learn by doing, not by talking about it endlessly and using vague metaphors.

    Good luck on your search. I found my current trainer by going to clinics. I went to every clinic that I could get to, his happened to be one of them. I loved his teaching style, so I called him up and asked if he would teach me.

  7. I don’t have my own horse, but my ideal first horse would be an older lesson horse. I rode this wonderful old paint named Porter, years ago. He was patient and forgiving and calm. Even when I totally messed up the cues, he knew what I wanted and did it anyway. I was practicing a dressage move, I think it was a turn on the forehand. I got the cues *completely* wrong, but he still did it. It was clunky and jerky, but he somehow figured out what it was I wanted him to do. That horse was just completely awesome.

    For a trainer/instructor, I want someone who leans more toward natural horsemanship methods, and who has a gentle hand with the horses. One of my last trainers kicked a horse in its side because it was bloating out when she was girthing it. I get that horses are thick-skinned and a human kick might have done little more than annoy the horse, but she lost a lot of my respect that day. I want a trainer that looks at the “why” of horse behavior in horse terms instead of assuming that the horse is just being “bad.” I also want a trainer who will push me and challenge me, but be understanding at the same time that now that I’m paying my own medical bills, the ground looks a lot farther away than it did when I was 13! I had no fears at all when I was 13, but I’m much more fearful around horses now. That bothers me. I want to be a fearless 13 year old again. So I guess I want a trainer who will hold my hand, but know when to give me a shove too!

  8. Good trainers are hard to find. Everybody at my barn calls themselves a trainer (because it is a boarding barn and there is no in-house trainer to dispute this). Many so called professional trainers have no concept of any sort of building on the basics approach. I see people who have taken lessons for years with the same trainer who ride unbalanced, heels up, shoulders hunched, looking at the ground. They get told to kick and pull and it is always the horse’s fault …. I need to stop now before I start screaming.
    What I want in a trainer:
    A thorough knowledge of the big picture and the ability to fix problems and keep moving toward that big picture. ok, that’s the overview.
    1. the ability to push me outside my comfort zone without terrifying me.
    2. not afraid to say ‘shut up and just ride’ not too often, but I do need it.
    3. recognize that I am going to analyze it anyway so let’s do that and get it out of the way.
    4. ‘pull on the right rein’ is not helpful when I am not in the lesson, I need to know and understand the goal and the movement.
    And there is that personality fit. All three involved have to be comfortable with how things are going.
    That’s a start. I am very lucky, over the years I have developed relationships with several local trainers (jump and dressage) and thoroughly enjoy lessons with them even if it is not on a regular basis. There are others that I enjoy watching and can learn from but they don’t suit me in an actual lesson, and there are others that I just stay away from. Always.

  9. Oooh, that’s the hardest question there is. There are so many bad, mediocre, [choose your own adjective] trainers out there. I do most of my own work now (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it training), but do try to check in with Mark Rashid when he’s in the area every year or two.

    Criteria – has the right attitude towards horses and people – knows how to listen and treat both horse and rider with respect and consideration. Substance over flash. Not tied to one discipline or “system” – recognizes that each horse and rider are individuals that need their own approach to things. Understands that horse and rider should be a partnership, not rider dominating horse. Understands human and equine anatomy and knows to get physical issues addressed before training issues. I wouldn’t work with a trainer/horseman unless I’d had a chance to spend a lot of time watching them work, both with horses and people. Walking the barn aisles and talking to clients can also help get the “vibe”. I could probably go on but I won’t.

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