Participate

I had one of those rides during my last lesson where the whole time you feel like you are on the verge of something: just so dang close you can TASTE it but not quite there yet.

space

Sometimes it’s even hard to explain what it actually IS that you are so darn close to reaching. I just had the sensation that a number of concepts were finally converging at once and a little breakthrough is on the horizon. Truthfully, I don’t even know if I’ll feel it when it happens or if it will be like a slow ascent and before I even notice, I’ll be on the other side.

space

If I think about how it feels to ride this way, there is a clear difference from how I felt when I first start riding. I used to feel like I knew enough to be a good passenger. The limits of my knowledge and experience also let me believe that to be a good passenger was most of what it meant to be a good horseback rider.

Passenger: A person who travels in a conveyance, without participating in its operation.

I set myself to memorizing certain “actions” designed to make horse and rider more comfortable during their temporary pairing: Lean slightly back when going downhill; posting the trot; half seat; etc. I thought any contact the rider had with the saddle had to be softened to make the horse more comfortable so I absorbed movement in my back and when that got difficult, I created more movement in the interest of following movement (I’m looking at you, “sitting trot hula hips” and “scoop with your seat canter”…). It’s hard to remember whether I was actually told to move this way or whether these were just poor interpretations, but I wanted to be the movement-following champion. I tried really really hard to be a good passenger. I wish I could be like “bless that little rider’s heart!” but this was still me like a year ago…so maybe I’ll just keep talking… 😉 The bottom line was that for all the steering or debatable “piloting” I did of the horse, I did not participate in its operation and, in fact, spent an enormous amount of energy trying to get out of the way of its operation.

space

But you know what, you can’t get out of the way unless you get off of the horse. If you want to ride, participate.

space

When I ride now, I feel active. I feel like I’m taking responsibility for my own body and better acknowledging its part in the equation. When you are active, you are not a passenger. Because I’m not busy spending all of my muscle tone on creating movement in order to follow, I am free to use my arms independently of my torso (what a concept!) or use different parts of my legs- sometimes even use one part on one leg and another part of the other leg simultaneously (brainsplosion!). Active resistance for greater harmony? When you watch it, you could say it more closely resembles actively doing nothing, but what it isn’t, is getting out of the way. “You gotta hold the frame.”

space

spagetti-arms

space

Omg did she really just use a Dirty Dancing reference?!

space

DD2

space

Beginners prerogative??

space

space

Here’s a Jean Luc Cornille based tangent that supports this whole topic eventually, I promise:

Full disclosure, I have shit posture and sometimes walk like a caveman. I once had a friend comment during a 5k that she never quite noticed my “swagger” before. She said it like that, it wasn’t mean to be mean. We were helping our friend get up a big hill at the time and since she was competing in her old wheelchair, it was heavier and slowing her down. All of the previous walking, combined with the slow pace up the hill, magnified my normally imperceptible limp. I referenced an LMFAO song and we all had a good chuckle.

space

yall-know-me-cuz-i-walk-with-a-limp-like-a-oldschool-pimp-a-real-og-no-seriously-i-have-arthritis--b7c02

space

I’ve had three knee surgeries and have pretty bad osteoarthritis but truthfully, it’s hard to tell whether my poor, inefficient gait can be attributed to actual damage/instability or more to many years now spent moving incorrectly to compensate for pain that is no longer there.

space

It has only recently occurred to me to think that why wouldn’t my equine partners be suffering from the same type of problems? Does your horse have shit posture? Maybe! Could she have once adjusted her gait to take pressure off of an injury and then just left it like that even after fully healing? Absolutely.

space

I am able to exist fairly well with my crummy posture most of the time. I can breathe, I can eat and drink, I can even move! But I have the special ability to think out a few more years to when my poor posture and poor gait may contribute to more damage. Your horse doesn’t care if it has bad posture or if it’s moving incorrectly- as long as it can breathe, eat, drink, and move- things are good in the ‘hood. If in six years your pony can no longer get up off the ground, he’s never going to think “Oh why didn’t I stop lumping all of my weight on my right shoulder!??!?” or “If I only hadn’t left my left hind dragging all the time, I would still be sound!”

space

We (the rider) can help them! We can assure them that the pain in that front hoof is no longer there and that they need to balance their weight equally. We can ask them to move more correctly, to be more efficient in their gait. We can work with their existing injuries and conformational faults and still push them to be as correct and efficient as they can be! It will be hard at first, and they’ll say no, because who doesn’t like saying no!?

space

ren-stimpy-horse1

space

But as soon as they figure out that what you’re asking is actually easier and more comfortable for them, they will totally act like it was all their idea in the first place. Which is fine, because you’ll just be happy that they won’t develop a repetitive stress injury from walking like a derp.

space

correct_walk_0

space

I don’t presume to think that I am going to even know if a horse is moving inefficiently or incorrectly enough to cause damage to itself, let alone know how to fix it, but the one thing I can do right now to move the needle in the right direction is to participate and try to take responsibility for all 200 el-bees that I am adding to the equation. I am endeavoring to actively ride and improve my poise, posture, and mechanics so that at least my horse doesn’t have to compensate so greatly for me. Then, and only then, can I start to ask him to meet me there, to hold his frame, for his own good, and ours.

space

57068558

space

I’m sure this paradigm shift happens in its own time depending on the person. Do you remember when you went from being a passenger to participating? Are you like me and still making that leap, just on the verge of trying to create a new “default” mode? It’s not really like the flip of a switch- you’re doing it all wrong or doing it all right at once, but your mentality can shift fairly quickly like that-mine has.

space

For the sake of discussion…is there anything inherently wrong with just being a passenger?

space

I like to hope not, considering I can go from participant to passenger in one second flat. I’m just making that moment my new cue to get off the horse. Putter around the field on the buckle- fine; mental health bareback toddle around the arena just for funsies-do it. I’m just not making any more horses work for me if I’m not going to participate.

space

space

swl

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Participate

  1. Nah, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with just being a passenger, a lot of people do just fine this way. Like life right, some people are always doing something, and others are just content to be.

  2. i love the passenger/participant analogy (i also like to think of it as passenger/pilot). one of my biggest struggles is participating in the show ring the same way i do while schooling or in lessons, vs just checking out and hoping for the best. that said tho, i definitely have rides that are purely just me being passenger while we putz around (usually trail rides)

    • I think I only didn’t use “pilot” because it implied too much leadership for where my riding skills are now. I think participant can suggest that I am making the effort to at least do my share on the team.

      Show stress definitely makes it tougher to stay present and participate. I don’t show much but I would probably default back to “let’s show off all the cool things we’ve been working on! I’ll just try to stay out of your way” but that’s not being the best dance partner. Work in progress!

  3. Great post! I am firmly in the passenger category, just getting back in the saddle after years off. However, I’m consciously incompetent – I know I want to get to participation! Remind me to check back in after I’ve had more than a grand total of one lesson this year 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s