If every client came to me and they had these fundamental skills down, life would be so much easier and we could really get into the lesson instead of struggling through the maneuvers.
It never ceases to amaze me the people that will come to me for lessons or for horse training that want to work with their own horses or show at a high level but are lacking very basic fundamental skills when it comes to their riding. The tools you have to communicate with your horse are through your hands, feet, and your seat; it’s so important that you be able to use those tools effectively in order to communicate efficiently, quickly, and honestly with your horse… and I think that’s probably the key word in that sentence, is honestly — when you can’t move up and down your reins or you aren’t balanced and soft in your seat, or you can’t move your leg forward and back where you need it to be, when you need it to be there, you aren’t sending the message to your partner what you may want to when you initially set out to put a spur in your horse.
When people go to compete at the major shows when they move out of the Novice and into the Amateur or regular Youth division, you have to keep in mind your experience level versus that of your competition. The ones who will find themselves at the top of the class, especially the Amateur division where people stay for 20/30 years, are the ones that took the time to learn to do these maneuvers and get effective with their legs and hands and develop the feel and timing at some point in their life.
In my opinion, there are only two ways that someone can hope to compete against the “veterans” of those divisions: either simply put in the years of practice and try to catch up because they back off or have a bad go, or make your workouts more efficient… if you’re willing to sacrifice 6 months to focus on nothing but getting accurate and solid with your hands and feet to your three buttons on your horse’s side, at each of your gaits, it will pay off dividends in your classes throughout the years.
I always grin to myself when I have this conversation with clients who have never had this type of talk with their trainer, and then get shocked because they thought they would be able to go crush their respective divisions after 30 days with no prior coaching. They’ll often get angry with me, then go to a different trainer and put in their 3 years of practice before they find themselves at the top of the division, 2 years longer than it would’ve taken with me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: being great at anything takes time and work. The only way you can shorten the amount of time required is to make your practices more focused.