It’s been exactly three years since I started horse-riding. I realised this today when I had my first lesson of the year. I am always surprised by how quickly I remember what to do; how to hold myself and work with the horse’s movement.
My first time in the saddle, I was surprised that I could make her turn left and right. But it wasn’t like that for long. In three years time I’ve learnt to walk, trot and canter (sort of). I’ve navigated innumerable poles and cones and barrels. I’ve jumped quite a few times and fallen off once. And I’ve fallen whole-heartedly in love with horses. (Actually, that last one happened on the first day.)
As for all the things I can now do and couldn’t three years ago, it’s thanks to my instructors. While I was riding around and around, sweating and panting and wondering which body-part would give out first, a teacher would be walking up and down and calling out instructions. Sometimes they were as complex as, “Make an upward transition on the long side and when you reach the letter A do a three-loop serpentine.” Other times they were as simple as, “Breathe!”
My instructors have adjusted my girth*, adjusted my stirrups, adjusted my horse’s motivation (by handing me a crop) and adjusted my mentality (by some miracle). They’ve picked up every crop that I’ve dropped and barrel that I’ve knocked and probably prayed they wouldn’t also have to pick me up off the ground. But above all my instructors have taught me how to communicate with a massive, powerful animal – that before I’d had no experience with. And if that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is.
But it’s not only my instructors that I’ve learned from. The horses have taught me a thing or two as well. In fact, I thought to compile a list of all the important things I’ve learnt from these magnificent animals:
- Work hard when you’re asked to – so long as you’re treated well.
- Make appreciative noises at people who give you food.
- Only take orders from people who know how to give them.
- Don’t worry so much about treading on people’s feet.
- You can get away with anything if you’re cute.
- Stand wherever you like but move without a fuss if you’re asked to.
- If someone’s standing in your way, keep going forward until they have to move.
- A smack on the arse never hurt anyone.
- If it rains, stand with your bum to the wind.
And so there you have it. Horse-riding is a very educational activity!
* That’s the girth-strap around the horse’s middle I’m talking about. Not my waistline. Although hopefully I’m adjusting that too.