Big smiles!

Abbey Good sent us this great article which will make you think. As all contributions from bloggers and readers, this article will be entered in our monthly SmartPak Contributor Award for a $200 Shopping Spree at SmartPak.

Thanks for sharing this story!

From Abbey:

You’ve all seen it.  That cringe that experienced horse people get when they are watching a beginner’s first lesson on a trustworthy school mount.  Thoughts consisting of, “Heels down!” or, “Stop pulling on his mouth!”and usually, “Sit up straight!”  seem to be running through the minds of everybody in the premises.  It’s easy to deem this beginner a hopeless case, but remember: You were there once, too.

I once heard an incredible statement made while at a Dressage clinic a few years ago.  It went something like, “Riding is not not a sport you can learn in one year, ten years, or one hundred years.  Riding takes one lifetime to understand, and ten lifetimes to master.” That quote got me thinking that no matter if we label ourselves greener than grass, or an experienced master of riding, we all have more to learn.  The best trainers in the world are ones that still learn from others.  Most riders have figured out by now that a trainer has little to teach if they believe they know everything there is to know.  The best trainer I ever rode with told me, “I will teach you everything I know, and then point you in the direction of somebody that can further your education.”  Coaches like that are ones with more  wisdom than any of the know-it-all coaches out there, because they know what they don’t know.  And that is a very valuable thing.

Take Olympians, for example.  Every single rider in the Olympics has a coach.  These equestrians and their mounts are riding Grand Prix Dressage tests, and jumping huge fences.  Some are teaching clinics, and lessons, and own their own show barns.  Any horse person would consider these people experienced, and certainly they are capable of the top levels of horsemanship.  But behind the scenes, there is a coach, watching their every move and thinking, “Heels down! Stop pulling on his mouth! Sip up straight!”  If you were to ask them, they would all say they have things they work on in their sessions with their trainer(s).  They don’t want to stop learning from the coaches that mentor them, because they have figured out that they could not make it to the olympics alone.  Believe it or not, Beezie’s first jump was not a 5’ oxer.

 When asked what her objectives are, up and coming rider Reed Kessler replied, “I want to become the best rider I can possibly be.” (Reed Kessler: the revelation) This statement should be the inspiration for riders everywhere.  It is certainly the personal mantra I have adopted, and not just in my riding.  The goal of any and all riding should not include the words, “to be perfect,” because that goal is simply unattainable.  When any rider presses themselves to be perfect, or have the perfect ride, there is much room for disappointment and failure.  They are setting the ride up to be unsuccessful.  Instead, riders seeking perfection need to strive to be the best they can be.  Only when you let go of seeking perfection will you find the joy of riding!

I’ve seen it again and again.  Beginners becoming discouraged when they see more experienced riders riding better than they do, and dropping out of the sport before they even had their chance to shine.  Encouragement is what is needed for them, not the menacing stares of other riders who want to correct their posture or reprimand their riding.  As a sport in general, horseback riding can be a very hard activity to become established in.  But with the encouragement of more riders, it can be a very rewarding for newbies.  One that can become as addictive for them as it is for us horse junkies out there.

So the next time you see a beginner becoming frustrated,  tell them exactly what you thought they did well.  Little bits of positive when they feel overwhelmed will keep them coming back to the barn to try again.  Have you said, “Good Job!” today?