By Sarah Mahoney

Struggles. Every equestrian has them, from beginners not able to tell if they’re posting on the correct diagonal and Junior Hunter Finals riders not completing the tests properly to top-level riders having refusals. However, my struggles in the saddle seem to end in the biggest of ‘ah-ha!’ moments. And on a never-ending basis.

I could see this as a bad thing. As though I’m in a constant state of struggle. Instead I choose [read: try] to look at it with, as the negative Nancy’s might say, rose-colored glasses and the outlook that with every struggle comes that ‘ah-ha!’ moment and that means Wow and I are learning and progressing as a team.

I take each ride, one at a time, and try to learn something from it. No maybe it’s not always the biggest ‘ah-ha!’ moment, but it helps in the process to get to that point. Each flat ride during the week I work on something different — transitions, leg yields, bending, ridability, etc. — and try to learn something about myself during each ride like:

  • Do I need to use my seat better? [answer: always yes!]
  • How light of an aid can I use to get an active response?
  • Do I need to be softer with my hands?
  • Am I sitting up straight with my weight evenly distributed? [answer: since I tend to lean probably not, but I’m more aware of it now and I’m working on it!

What you learn isn’t always going to be positive — like when I know I’m not getting a good canter depart because of my body position, or when I drop my eye and lean up his neck over fences — but it will teach you so much about your riding and the outcomes you’re getting versus the results you want. That ‘ah-ha!’ or lightbulb moment flashes for me ALL the time, but in my case I have to keep that lightbulb switched on during the entirety of my ride…and all future rides. And that my friends is the hard part. I know what I’m doing wrong, now I just have to be cognizant of that each time I sit in the saddle.

Happy riding and cheers to each ‘ah-ha!’ moment!