Thinking about growth and accountability...
What does it mean to be an athlete? The Oxford definition states “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.”
And what does it mean to be an equestrian? The International Equestrian Federation states in their values “Equestrian sport is one of the very few sports where men and women compete on equal terms all the way up to Olympic level. It is also the only sport which involves two athletes: horse and rider. The relationship and mutual respect built up between the two is the key to a successful partnership.”
For MRC, as mostly pleasure riders, participating in a sport that requires both athleticism and equestrianism, how do we define ourselves and at the same time push ourselves to be the best we can be, not only for us but for our horses?
We have a unique perspective as mostly non horse owning riders; we have a passion and various levels of experience and MRC provides an opportunity to live out that passion with little of the responsibility that horse owners take on. The luxury of being able to show up and ride a horse that has already been trained, sometimes even groomed or tacked for us can be taken for granted.
Horse owners have a responsibility to care for their horses daily, to feed them, exercise them, clean their stalls and paddocks, get them regular vet checks and farrier visits. They treat and ride their horses as their close companions, with a keen sense of responsibility, concerned about every ride or step that horse may take and how it could impact their health and overall lifespan. They provide a great trust in us when they let us ride their horses.
When horse owners have an issue or problem with their horse they are required to seek the training or use the tools they have to work through it and find solutions. Horses are living breathing animals and like us are constantly changing and adapting to their surroundings and as horse owners and riders we have a responsibility to be aware and in tune to how they communicate.
So while our horse owners are spending their weeks exercising, training and treating their horses, what can we do as riders to be there and be better for the horses we get to ride? We can work on being good athletes and equestrians. We can stay fit, work on our core strength, read and watch videos, and start to understand the anatomy and behavior of horses.
We can take lessons regularly, being mentally and physically present to build our knowledge and confidence for each of the horses we will ride in the future. And we can start to develop more awareness about the horses we ride, how are they breathing? What is the footing like, could it cause them to lose a shoe? Why are they tossing their heads? And we can start to take accountability that for most “issues while riding” there is a level of rider error happening.
When we take accountability for how a horse we are riding is behaving we can start to look at our own riding and skills and think through the steps of how to fix it.
As we become stronger athletes, we can manage horses that are also stronger athletes. And as we become better equestrians we can understand how to better communicate with our amazing partners, the horses we ride.
Not every ride will be our best ride, not every horse will be like the last horse but if we continue to grow we will always be better than we were yesterday.