“You need to give yourself more credit”

I got a migraine on Saturday before my lesson so I had to take my meds which make feel nauseous and shakey unless I constantly eat (not an option at the barn since I am OCD about touching food when I am around horses). By the time I got to my trainers barn for a lesson I was not in good shape and questioning my sanity for even thinking riding was a good idea. My trainer could tell something was wrong and with things being as cold as they were she told me that if I didn’t feel up to riding that was okay.

I really wanted to ride though so with the promise of an easy lesson I got the Schoolmaster ready for a light ride just so we could both get moving. I didn’t buy new breeches for nothing! My trainer said that it was such a me thing to do to feel like crap and still want to get on and ride. I laughed and thought about it. She was right. That made me feel a lot better because it meant that whatever my not wanting to ride issue is it is clearly starting to go away. Since it was a light lesson we got to chat and I talked to her about a bunch of things that were on my mind. One of them was the fact that I have no feel. She swears I am getting better at it though. She says that even though I don’t think I can feel I still make changes and corrections. I guess that is a good thing even if it is clear how far apart my brain and body are when I ride!

I was the person who got her into dressage so we started talking about our goals. I told her honestly that if I still feel like a sucky rider after I am able to show a 3rd level test I am going give dressage up. She asked why I ride dressage if I don’t like it. The thing is, I do like it. I think it is beautiful to watch when it is done well. I just suck at it and at some point you learn that you are not good at something and it just seems silly to point time and effort in a hobby that you are not good at. That got us talking about the definition of a “good rider”.

I am just going to write down our conversation because that is easier…

My Trainer “I don’t understand why you don’t think that you are a good rider”

Me “Because I have no natural feel and my timing is horrible”

My Trainer “That stuff is for great riders, pros, naturals, etc. How many people do you know who have a good feel and timing? What is your definition of a good rider?”

Me “I don’t know. I think that a good horse person is well rounded. They can do well in any discipline. They are just good”

My Trainer “Well my definition of a good rider is the person who I can put on any horse and know that they are not going to ruin it in anyway. I think that good riders can ride any horse without making the owner worry. I think that a great rider makes every horse they ride better, but that a good rider can ride any horse well enough. I don’t know many of either type of rider. I think that trainers should all be great riders, but they are not. Plenty of trainers are not even good riders. You are a good rider. I can, and have, put you on every one of my horses, even my own. I never have to worry about you riding a horse. Do you know how rare it is to be able to tell people that my student can handle any horse? Do you know how weird it is that you can ride a horse who is dead to the leg like Pal and a horse like Gennyral who is so sensitive in the same day? You need to give yourself more credit”

Me “Yeah, but I just because I don’t get myself killed at the walk/trot/or canter doesn’t mean a whole lot”

My Trainer “Well it should. I don’t know of any other adult amateurs who can ride more than one horse well, let alone so many different types of horses. Many professionals only specialize in one type. Think of all the trainers that only work with young horses, hot horses, lazy horses, etc. I know you don’t think you are good, but I want you to think about this. How many people who are not professionals have great timing. How many people can say they have jumped 4 foot, done the crazy trail rides you have and half passed? You might not be the rider you want to be, which I can understand being frustrating, but your timing is getting better. You might not be able to feel like some other people do, but you are so much better than you were even just a year ago. All I ask of you is to focus and get better and the past two years you have been doing that. I think you are a good rider even if you don’t and that is going to be the end of this discussion”

Doesn’t that make you want my trainer? I have been thinking about it a lot and I am going to give myself a pat on the back and a much needed confidence boost because she is right. I have never, ever ruined a horse. No one can say that their horse was worse because I rode it. I have a long way to go to where I need to be, but you know what…even if it is just for a short while…I feel like a good rider right now.

How would you all define being a good rider? What about a great one?

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8 thoughts on ““You need to give yourself more credit”

  1. I think my idea of a good rider is too amorphous to put down in a blog. I do know that there are riders that are technically good, that others say are good riders that I wouldn’t let touch my horse.
    But I am going to reply to the whole thought behind your post. If we were to give up doing something that we love, work at and enjoy because we don’t meet some specific criteria of ‘good’ most of us would be left sitting on the couch with our hands in our laps.

  2. Although I know exactly where you’re coming from, I agree with your trainer. I do a lot of scribing at shows. At the Championship show I only saw half-a-dozen good rides – that’s including professionals and amateurs and youth (one was PJ’s half-sister!). The judge was very disapppointed. That’s 6 out of more than 50 rides – at a Championship show! In fact at most shows I’ve scribed for I’ve only witnessed a handful of good rides. And the good rides included spooking horses and didin’t necessarily include the fancy movers.

    The good rides were where the horse was working from back to front and pushing into contact correctly. (and who gets the geometry right)

    The point is…compared to MOST people out there, you are ahead of the game. Of course not compared to the Steffen Peters of the world but riding horses is not your job. And there is no way you will ever get anywhere close to how well someone like him rides unless you quit your career and start riding horses all day under the eye of an expert. Period. Everyone started somewhere- if fact they all started where you are. Some just decided to dedicate their lives to it. Remember, Steffen would not be able to do your job either if you switched places for a day.

    Dressage is a journey. If you are enjoying the trip, who cares how long it takes to get to your destination (whatever that destination is).

  3. ” I have a long way to go to where I need to be” I would challenge this statement. You may have a long way to go to get to where you WANT to be but not where you NEED to be. The only place you NEED to be is where you are doing no harm to the horse. You are already there and evidently have been for a while. That’s what counts in my book. To me, like your trainer, that is a good rider….someone who does no harm to the horse or it’s training.

    You may WANT more for your riding and that’s really cool. You are motivated to be more than you need to be. That’s a good thing. But keep it in perspective and don’t beat yourself up because you are still on the journey. It is a lifelong journey and there will always be something more you WANT to attain. Respect yourself for that. You deserve it.

    For me great riders are great horsemen too. It is not about the awards they have won but the manner in which they achieve their success. They don’t just ride with perfect timing and feel. They always have the best interest of the horse at heart.

  4. I think we are harder on ourselves when we want to rise to the challenge. Nothing is wrong with that..it shows you care about riding, etc. But along with that, you have to enjoy the good days and what you do, do, that is great and working and learning 🙂

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with your trainer. I have never seen you ride (obviously), but everything your trainer said in general is true, so the things she is saying about (and to) you are also probably true. 🙂
    And based on what you both said, you are indeed lucky to have her as a trainer, and she is lucky to have you as a student.

  6. To me, a good rider is someone who gets it right (or pretty close) most of the time, doesn’t drive the horses crazy, and is generally mostly aware of what their body is doing and what the horse is doing underneath them. A great rider is someone like my trainer, who does something intangible and irreplicable when she’s on a horse that transforms everything she sits on into an amazing, willing, talented athlete. Great riders are to be emulated, but can’t be copied, because they’re so natural that it’s almost impossible to tell what aids they’re using to get the most out of their horses. And for what it’s worth… I’ve seen you ride in person, and I’ve seen photos and videos too, and you’d definitely qualify as a good rider in my book. Not to mention, you’re a fantastic horse person, which is something I wouldn’t say even of a lot of the “good riders” I know of.

  7. Take your well deserved pat on the back and enjoy yourself!! I doubt there are many riders who every consider themselves so good to the point where they can’t learn any more. If a bronc rider can stick to any horse more than 5 second, don’t you think he’d next try to make it 6 or 7 seconds on ANY horse?

    I’m one of those people that can’t ride worth a darn and don’t even take instruction very well but I can sit on the ground and tell you exactly what YOU need to do to get your horse to do what you need it to do. It’s a talent I enjoy having, but I’d rather be a good rider!

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