From Rider to Driver

There comes this time in a rider’s life when she goes from rider to driver. It happens often invisibly, small improvements over time, that all lead to being the driver of the horse instead of the passenger.

When you learn to ride, you learn to do just that: ride. You learn which buttons to push to make the horse go, stop, turn, and jump. You learn about position and the effectiveness of correct equitation. You (hopefully) learn how to handle a horse that spooks or acts out in a patient manner. You learn to correct simple disobediences such as refusing to go forward.

But then there comes that time when you become more than just a rider, you become the driver. You start to feel what your horse is doing the instant it happens and can correct the behavior (and eventually can anticipate a behavior and redirect the energy before it becomes a problem). You start to manipulate your horse’s manner of going to make him use his body in a better way. You start to improve their carriage or way-of-going. You start to learn how and when to use each aid and the timing involved to elicit a certain response. You somehow and almost magically start to become a trainer and not just a rider. You start to dance with your horse, instead of dancing beside your horse.

If you ride with me long enough, you will learn how to train. Students who are invested, those who lease or own, will learn these invaluable skills of how to train their horses. Before you can learn how to influence your horse’s way of going, you have to have the basic skills of equitation and have a basic understanding of aids and their reactions. Once you grasp these concepts, you move onto more complicated ones such as learning to move each part of the horse independently. You learn about lateral work and how it improves jumping skills. You learn how to turn up the impulsion from the horse’s hind end without barreling out of control around the arena. You are challenged to improve your own skills as they benefit the horses you ride.

If you ride with me, you will work hard. I am unapologetic in this statement. Riding is a sport. It is a fun sport but your safety relies on your ability to study and work hard. The stronger you are as a rider, the more effective, and consequently, the more fun you will have. I don’t teach to the test - I teach to train. Showing is important as a measurement of improvement and skills but it is not the cornerstone of my training program.

I am proud to say that my students are not afraid to work hard. We have a great time and I love having the ability to have educated conversations with them about their training and goals. I enjoy watching them hack their horses and practice without stirrups or ride bareback. I am happy that I have the ability to create a safe space to make mistakes and learn from these experiences.  

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Melanie on Fiora practicing for a show. Photo by Lauren D.