It is interesting to me, that after nearly 50 years emerged in the riding scene, I continue to see the ‘reinvention’ of riding every decade or so. Systems, training strategies, tips and programs continue to unfold anew, but with variations and changes reflective of the advancement of training and the development of more ‘discipline specific’ equines.
Second to this is the new riding skill acquisition which has moved from the old system of riding many equines, not all of them trained, cooperative or interested in their work and prone to take advantage of their riders in seems of devious and dangerous evasions. Hence the rider learned by developing the skills necessary to remain aboard their charges long enough to gain the experience necessary to make their desires known and acceptable to their horses. This process seemed to take a number or years and even decades to master. I would hazard a statement that in the english riding world, Pony Club evolved to give a semblance of order to this process of learning and experience gathering.
In the modern day, the need to take years to acquire skill has lost favour with new riders expecting to gain all the skills they need after a dozen lessons with the local Instructor and then purchasing a ‘made’ horse capable of providing them with a ride comparable to their level of capability. Sadly, in many cases they are over-horsed, and only proceed to ruin the horse and dampen any ardor they had for riding, resulting in the abandonment of riding after only a short investment of time, but not less than a considerable financial investment with is rarely recouped.
The dog-eat-dog horse-show mentality has also disillusioned many riders who tire of the competitiveness and malicious programs riders engage in, in the relentless pursuit of first-place ribbons and financial reward. Happily I am able to report that the sport of Eventing does continue to encourage involvement of the riders with friendly help, show-time socializing, offering of assistance and pointers and good old comradery.
That is not to negate the incredible devotion to training, horse husbandry, personal fitness, physical and emotional, that riders invest in pursuit of ideals. Without these things, progress would be slow or missing from training practices and the diffusion of information and methods to up-coming riders.
I was once told that if I continued to work hard I would be a good rider. I responded…”yeah, in about 20 years” and the immediate retort was…”you’ll be lucky’! Happily that remark was from an Olympic coach and it made me realize very early on that riding was a dynamic and on-going process and after 50 years, I am still learning from horses and riders.
Accolades must go to the many Instructors I know in Alberta, and throughout Canada, who have diligently and with unending enthusiasm, continued to invest time, money and skill into riders and riding opportunities providing us with high standards and successes in local, national and international riding.
Next time we will look at the process of getting started; horse selection and basic riding and training requirements to get the most from ourselves and our mounts.