A few years ago, I had a brilliant riding instructor who progressed my riding further in two years, than all the other instructors had in over fifteen. Her impact remains with me, and today I suddenly remembered the turning point in my learning. For some reason I had blanked it from my mind. I often talk about a chestnut mare called Dancer, with whom I bonded virtually instantly, and who taught me a great deal, along with my instructor, about lateral work, classical riding and how to build a relationship of trust that can be transferred to the most difficult and stressful situations. After all, if you don’t have trust then a chestnut mare is not going to do anything for you. If you are horsey, you will know exactly what I mean.
Today I realised Dancer was not the turning point I thought she was. Riding her was not that moment. The progression with her was great, but it wasn’t that second of realisation. That realisation came with another horse (and the same instructor) called Clown.
Clown was temperamental, big, white and highly strung. He towered above the other horses and was stocky like a train – or maybe that is just how I remember him. He was a livery and was only ridden by the very top rider in our lesson, Livia, and my goodness he looked beautiful with her riding him. He was the untouchable. Then, one day, my instructor let me ride him. And I. Was. Terrified.
But I was determined to prove to my instructor that she was right to let me take him, so I listened intently to everything she said, did it as best I could, and he was AMAZING. It was with Clown that I had that moment when I learnt what the right ‘feel’ was, and how a horse should feel when it is working correctly. He also taught me what was the right and wrong way to ask for movements and bend, but the important bit is that moment. When you know you have it right.
Since that moment, I’ve had the same feeling with other horses and it makes my heart soar. But without having felt it in the first place, I would have no idea whether it was right. I would probably push past the point where it was correct.
I think this holds true throughout life. Without writing a great piece of writing, you will have no benchmark for your own great writing. Without taking an amazing picture, usually completely by accident, how will you learn about your own creative composition.
Maybe these examples are not the same, because there is truely no way to explain that feeling when a horse is moving correctly. It just feels right. Maybe it should be more compared to falling in love; if you haven’t fallen in love, you won’t see it coming.