Friday, September 28, 2012

When Are you Going to Learn to Ride?

"When are you going to learn to ride?"  I can't count the number of times I have heard that phrase when I tell my non-horsie friends that I take riding lessons.  In their eyes, there is an ending.  Some time that eventually you "get it" and have accomplished your goal of being a rider.  And really... how hard could it be to plop your butt on the horse and amble around?

I always respond that even Olympic riders continue to take lessons.   Whether you are an equestrian or a gymnast, there is always room for improvement and coaching.  And I am NOWHERE near an Olympic rider so I need even more coaching!

One of my favorite dressage riders is Steffen Peters.   He truly dances with his horses.   They move as one, playing off eachother.  When I watch him ride I'm not sure who is leading the dance -- it appears to be a cooperative effort -- as if the horse and rider make the same decisions.  Even better is when Steffen and his horse ride to music.

Steffen Peters is a three time Olympian and bronze medalist.   At that level, you can safely say that he has "made it" to the big leagues and in the eyes of my non-horsie friends has probably learned to ride.  No need for lessons here, right?  Wrong.

Steffen Peters continues to take lessons and has coaches to help him.  His wife Shannon is his frequent "eye on the ground" in addition to outside coaches.  He also trains with a personal trainer off his horse three times a week for core and cardiovascular training.

I study dressage.  I read books. I watch clinics.   I take notes.  I write this blog to help me clarify my thoughts.  Despite my study, I still don't know even a smidgin of what I want to learn about dressage and even the things I DO know I don't always practice.

I know that I should have a straight line from shoulder to hip to heel and strive to keep that outline but its hard to tell if you really have it right.   Its something I struggle with and there have been multiple situations where my instructor tells me my heel is too far forward on the horse.  I swear it FEELS like my foot is exactly where it should be but that's what a bad habit is.... repeating something that is incorrect even though you know better.  Without those eyes on the ground to tell you the reality, you will continue to repeat it and the habit will become even more ingrained.

So yes... non-horsie friends... I still need my lessons.  And when will I learn to ride?  Probably never but I hope I am improving.

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