There is rarely anything I address more readily in riding than reality, and all that reality encompasses for each individual. I do so diplomatically, of course, but the realities of our own imperfections, both innate and learned, must be addressed. I espouse these imperfections not from a point of perfection (far from it), but from the bedrock of the knowing imperfections in my own abilities.
I've had a lot of time to explore this reality (no pun intended) over the last few years as I have spent significant time out of the saddle healing from multiple orthopedic surgeries. I am hoping to be back on a horse soon but am facing the possibility of two more orthopedic surgeries. The fun just never seems to end.
As I contemplate a return to riding, I am faced with my own reality of getting older, having multiple orthopedic issues, and ongoing vertigo. I know that despite my labyrinthine dysfunction, I have a stable balance honed from years of riding. I also know that virtually every joint in my body is compromised to some degree, and I cannot afford any more significant damage. I'm in the push/pull of wanting to ride, but not wanting to ride until completely healed as I know further damage will just put my riding off further into the distance. Reality is a struggle...
I am quite fortunate to work with students that welcome my diplomatic corrections, and oftentimes imparting reality into the riding helps diffuse some of the pressure riders place on themselves, and their horses. Perception and expectation can be an abrasive solvent to the fabric of our riding, and it is important to maintain a grounding in reality for the benefit of both horse and rider.
Every student and every horse are different, with different histories, experiences, confidences and abilities. It is the responsibility of the instructor to educate on both a level and in a style that fosters a positive learning experience for both horse and rider. I often tell my clients that they will never hear me raise my voice, unless they are in danger and I need to get their attention. My quiet style may not work for all, but it is who I am and is my reality.
To progress in riding each much be honest about their skills and understandings and be willing to be challenged by the new realities they may face. The beauty of it all is that reality isn't always a bad thing.
- Joanna, 2019