A video still from the video in question

I’ve always been a big fan of having pictures of my horse and I. After a day at a show, I like to hungrily flip through the professional photographer’s proofs, scrutinizing all the pictures of my fellow competitors and bemoaning my equitation flaws.

In fact, it’s this second practice that has led me to the realization that photographs (and videos) and not useful only for bedecking your walls with a shrine to your equestrian history– they’re also an incredibly useful tool in improving your riding.

Case in point. I haven’t had a video of myself riding since my parents would trundle out in the rain to morosely film a few grainy shots of me bumping and weaving my way around the 2’3 hunters.

This lack of footage is due mostly to the fact that the person who would be most likely to desire a video of me riding — me — is also the person least capable of doing it at the time.

But recently I started working with a new horse, and due in part to vanity, I decided I needed to break this dry spell, and volunteered my polo coach to film a jumping lesson.

The lesson went great. My horse was forward and keen, boldly hopping over new and unfamiliar fences and softly accepting the contact.

My coach was jubilant about his ground-eating gaits and willing attitude. She was less than jubilant, however, about my equitation, which seems to have degraded slightly over a summer of playing polo and shloppin’ around the pasture.

Over and over I heard her mantra, “Shorten your reins! You can still be soft with shorter reins, shorten those reins—” I acquiesed, but inwardly was wondering what she was going on about. My reins were PLENTY short– any shorter and I would be grasping the rings of the snaffle!

After my lesson, as I settled into the truck to trailer my horse back home, I got a chance to quickly review some of the clips my polo coach has so generously shot on my iPhone.

And lo and behold, the first thing I noticed? My ridiculously long and flapping reins. Yes, my horse was accepting of the contact, and far more so than he had license to be, with the intermittent and sporadic contact I was giving him!

And what was with my posting? I was rising far too high out of the saddle, and it looked affected and bizarre. I felt a strong jolt of shame, tempered by a resolution to fix these embarrassing flaws, dangit! I’d felt so light and perfect and carelessly capable while riding, but watching those videos made me realise that I had a LOT of work to do.

I guess I’d like to end this post with a recommendation: if you can corral some innocent friend into standing in your arena for an hour, get one of your lessons filmed. Seeing those flaws your coach is pointing out for yourself, will give you a tangible idea of exactly what they are and how to fix them, and that, my friends, will get you the most “bang for your buck” lesson-wise.