It's Not Always You

If I've noticed one thing, either from myself or from talking to hundreds of riders over the years, it's that horse people are very quick to blame themselves. I do it. If you're reading this, you probably do it too.

It's easy to blame ourselves. It's our job as riders to prepare our horses for the things we throw at them. We ask them to do a lot they definitely would not naturally do. Horses don't voluntarily jump things, or piaffe, or load themselves up on metal boxes and drive 70mph on the highway. We ask them to do it and because they are God's gift to man, usually they do it.

But sometimes they don't. Occasionally we ask and we get static confusion in return, or maybe the horse throws up the middle finger, or they think we asked for something else so they pick up the left lead canter when we really meant the right.

Runkle and I had eternal struggles turning left. In the beginning he would literally crash into the wall instead of turning left. I ran the gamut of things I could do to fix this, from body work to targeted exercise and everything in between. I - like most riders - tend to be very crooked and I even did chirporactic on myself to try and fix Runkle's left-turn-crash issues. It was something we had to constantly work on even as I began to consider him 'trained'.

Stubborn pony says NO THANK YOU LEFT LEAD.
I gave up and assumed it was my own crookedness and/or lack of ability to ride.

Fast forward to last week, where suddenly Indy lost the ability to turn as well. "Oh god, here we go," I thought to myself. He actually would swap leads so he could turn instead of staying on a circle. I nagged myself about my shoulders being crooked, I palpated his back, I adjusted the padding under his saddle.  Nothing I did really helped.

The most obedient one. Probably.
Monday I had a riding lesson and I specifically wanted to work on this issue. With much hand-wringing and self critique I hoped she could fix this resurgence of my inability to turn. Partway through my trainer said casually, "Well at least we know it's not you. Runkle couldn't turn left, and Indy can't turn right."

In my struggling I hadn't even realized that I was actually having a completely opposite problem from before. And neither horse may have been me at all, except for the fact that maybe they were really goading me into it. Sometimes it is the horse. Indy 'has trouble' turning right and mysteriously only when he's going away from the barn. Funny how that happens, huh? All controls work until suddenly we're heading away from home. Hm. Weird.

So when you're riding and beating yourself up for not being perfect remember that the horse has to meet you half way, at least, and that it might not always be you. Sometimes it is them.


  1. Amen.
    I mean, most of the time it's me. But sometimes it's them too. They are living beings after all.
    I'm hoping to blame Romey's refusal to trot on him. But probably still me. I'll know more when the vet gets here later today!

  2. I think that's a hard one to sort out--we're inoculated to think it's always our fault, plus if it is our fault, we can fix it.

    I have really mixed emotions on this that I probably need to write a blog post about.

  3. Emily has one right now that does the SAME exact thing in the same direction/away from the barn!!! I feel your pain with being crooked. Literally if I am sitting on a horse and it's going straight my hips are facing left... it makes for lots of missed communications!

  4. This is very timely for me... thank you.

  5. Ha I felt that way about Bali and Isabel, who struggled in opposite directions. But now Charlie has some issues identical to Izzy despite being an entirely different creature so.... Lol?


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