Not having my coach ride my horse, was something that I used to unreasonably proud of. I wore it as a badge of honour, the same way that some people wear their busyness. I felt that it represented some mild form of success which meant that I didn’t need my coach to ride my horse.
Looking back I think I’ve only ever had coaches ride my horses a handful of times. The exception to this was the first four weeks of owning Nonie when she was in training. Since I started working with Gary Lung he has ridden Nonie a total of three times over a space of 9 months. It has made a significant difference and has provided me with an invaluable learning opportunity.
It has been so insightful to see Nonie working and to observe the way that Gary firmly correct’s Nonie and equally the way that he is lightening quick in releasing and rewarding when Nonie gets it right. It has enabled us to more quickly work through hitches in our training. But perhaps most importantly it has enabled me to gain a crystal clear understanding of the feel that I should have.
When changes happen slowly, as they generally do with horses, it can be hard to detect until all of a sudden you’re either in a muddle or things are brilliant. If you have the experience of sitting on hundreds of different horses that you have progressed through to Grand Prix, and you know exactly what you should be feeling, that is one thing. But when you are entering new territory it’s another thing entirely.
I’ve talked before about how I’ve not ridden a horse to this level before and that Nonie is no schoolmaster. So we are in the situation that many other amateur riders face of learning and simultaneously teaching our horses. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this it can create challenges – you don’t quite know what you’re aiming towards and your horse is reliant upon you to guide them.
It can feel a little like travelling to a new destination without a map. You have some idea of what the destination is going to look like and how you might feel when you get there but it’s a little bit of a mystery exactly how you will get from point A to B. As an amateur having your coach intermittently ride your horse is a little like riding a tandem bike to that new destination. It doesn’t eliminate the work, but it does help to iron out some of the bumps.
This experience has altered my perspective on the role that having your coach ride your horse can play within your training. It’s no more shortcut to success than riding a schoolmaster. It’s simply another tool to add to your kit, one that I will almost certainly utilise as we continue our journey dancing down the centreline.