Riding and working around horses can teach us a number of things, not the least of which is dealing with the unexpected.
By Christine Olsen
Two years ago I recall a memorable lesson after a terrible rainstorm. I was scheduled to teach a group of riders and their horses in an outdoor arena, but when I arrived, several of the riders wished to cancel due to their concerns of the arena’s condition. The footing had miraculously held up, the problem was two large puddles they feared their horses would spook at.
Having already made the trip, I went on to ask each rider if their horse had previous exposure to water or bad experiences. As it turned out, their concern grew from the fact that they had never tried walking through a puddle before. I was able to convince them to keep their lesson and we adjusted the class to include introducing water obstacles. To their surprise, each horse went through the puddles with no hesitation. Each rider was so proud of their brave steed, but I was so proud of them. It was a coachable moment that I didn’t expect, and a learning experience for me that I have learned to appreciate.
Currently we are going through a different rainstorm, one like we have never seen before. Boarding stables are now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and going out to the stable is now unavailable for most riders. With a month without riding or even seeing our horse it takes adjustment to a whole new level. This is one big puddle!
Horses teach us many things. We learn how to ride transitions, how to be prepared for the steps ahead we anticipate (and for those we don’t). This is not a break time. This is when it’s time to adjust and adapt — to continue improving our riding skills and increasing our horse knowledge. Our time out of the saddle should improve our time in the saddle.
If your barn is currently closed, I encourage you to speak with your riding instructor on ways you can continue working on your riding. This may include mental and physical fitness exercises, independent study, or virtual coaching.
Christine Olsen is a multi-disciplined riding instructor based in Northern Illinois. Her lifelong passion for horses has taken her across the country in many different saddles and arenas.