Are you a Quirky Rider?
The quirky horse rider is the person who rides to develop themselves and not to prove themselves. The quirky rider sees their relationship with their horse as an evolution of who they are and uses the lessons learnt in the saddle to better understand themselves, their relationships and their purpose at a soul level. They apply the lessons they learn from the horses to their everyday life and see each trial and tribulation with their horse as a way to develop their strength of character and better define their ethos and purpose.
The quirky rider accepts every challenge faced with faith and determination to see it through and understand that no matter the result, they are where they need to be at this very moment in time. They whole heartedly love their horse and understand that their behaviour is an expression of their personality that is not to be squashed and dominated but encouraged to flourish and grow.
The quirky rider understands that there is a deeper meaning to be understood in their relationship with their horse and their horses actions. They take the time to reflect what their horse is trying to communicate in its actions and how best to integrate their riding goals with their horses personality.
The moment I became a quirky rider
This moment is burnt into my memory forever. For a while I was embarrassed about my actions, but I vowed from here on out I would always be the voice for my horse and not let anyone pressure me into doing anything to my horse that I thought would be disrespectful or that would offend them.
At the time I had a good relationship with my instructor, I had learnt so much from her and she was the person who built up my skills to be an instructor and a EA competent competitor. I respected her advice and took her word as gospel. At the time I was riding a stallion who wasn't always the most well behaved but had a heart of gold, a beautiful nature and mostly tried his heart out, occasionally deciding that the arena was terrifying and not concentrating on anything other than spooking for the length of the arena. She taught me to be a strong and heavy handed rider, she taught me that was what I needed to be to ride a stallion. Something deep inside me knew this was wrong, but I respected her judgement and worked as she asked me. When I look back now I know what was lacking was not my strength as a rider but my communication skills. He wasn't trying to be naughty, he just didn't know what I wanted, I didn't really understand what I wanted. As our lessons went on, more and more I pretended to be doing what she asking me without trying to do it because it felt so wrong. One of our lessons I vividly remember being taught to run him into the wall of the arena to get counter flexion. I let her push me to keep running him into the wall until he yielded off my outside leg. Bless him he figured it out, through no help from me he learnt to yield off my outside leg so as not to be run into the wall. I have to make mention that this is also one of the gentler instructors I've had in my riding career. I have definitely been pushed by instructors to do a lot worse to my horses.
One day, mid lesson, I can't remember what we were bullying him into, there were so many things we bullied him into, but this was the day I stopped and said to my instructor there had to be a better way. She told me I was unteachable and walked out. I was in shock, I had just lost my mentor, my coach and my inspiration. It all fell down around me but I knew in my heart I had done the right thing for me and the right thing for my horse. This was the day I vowed to always stand up and be my horses voice because he could not. This was the day I vowed to understand his behaviour instead of bullying him into what was expected of him to perform like a circus animal. This was the day I said I would find a better way whether someone was able to show me the way or not and so I started to listen to my horse. I discovered that when I wasn't trying to bully him into submission he was actually a very good teacher. He knew better than any instructor what was in his best interest, what made his body feel good when it worked and what didn't and I let him tell me when he didn't understand what I wanted. Sure our competition quality suffered temporarily but only because I went back to square one and decided to relearn the whole training process as taught by the horse. I loved this little dude, he opened my heart and my mind to a better way of training and he is the foundation for how I ride today. I'm still a working progress and each horse teaches me something new, but I always allow myself to be the voice of a misunderstood horse first and a trainer second.