Recently, for the first time in around two years I let someone else ride my horse. I have been avoiding it for a number of reasons:
Firstly, there was the safety concern: when I first met Ginge asking him for anything more than walk in the school came with the risk of a bucking spree down the side of the arena. It is a risk you chose to take when they are yours and you know that *touch wood* you normally manage to stay on, but a different matter when you are asking someone else to take that risk. He was “that horse” who caused trainers to say “I am not getting on that” and once “I am way too valuable to have that horse cause me an injury” (I think he was at least half joking). Thankfully, this more dangerous phase of our partnership is now over!
Secondly, once progress began, there was the common worry that someone else could undo all the hard work and set you back by weeks or months by confusing or upsetting him in some way (easily done when you have a ginger on your hands).
Finally, there was the slightly selfish concern that we had reached a point where my own limitations as a rider were holding him back and that if someone else got on he would magically look incredible and be able to do everything.
The decision to cast aside these doubts turned out to be a great one. I had found myself in a position where Ginge was starting to really focus and turn a corner on the schooling front, but I was about to be away for more of the next 5 weeks than I would be around. Ordinarily, Ginge would just have the time off, but I really did not want him to have 5 weeks off when he was finally starting to work so well. I bit the bullet and a cast of 3 friends and trainers stepped in to keep him ticking over while I was away. The result was a confidence boost for me, a mini boot camp for him and massively improved lessons with both our trainers since we have returned.
The confidence boost came in a number of ways: the proud mum feeling from other people actually enjoying riding him; the knowledge that our ongoing struggles are not purely my fault; and the subsequent feeling that I have actually done a pretty good job producing him and should be less hard on myself. Not that long ago people used to refuse to ride him and now we get compliments for his willing and positive attitude. Everyone marvelled at his giant trot and my friend was thrilled to be on a horse who actually understood leg yield, definitely feeling like a proud mum.
The mini boot camp also really helped us both. I love my pony, but we both know sometimes he can decide for us both that he has worked hard enough and I will let him get away with it. I make a lot of excuses for him, when really we are at a point where he is ready to answer some real questions. My trainers are both of an understanding nature and know there are things he genuinely finds hard, but they are also not as soft as I am so he had a real work out and had his boundaries tested. As a result he felt amazing when I finally got back on and showed us both what he is capable of – definitely the push I need to start asking a bit more from him! This has been particularly useful over poles as learning together is not always the best for our team confidence, so an experienced and confident eventer riding him has really helped him approach fences with a positive feeling.
Since I returned from my trips we have had lessons with both trainers and the quality of them (whilst they were always great before) has really improved. Now they have both ridden him they have more insight into how he feels and what makes him tick, so it is easier for them to give advice and tips that are really tailored to him. There have been a few sentences beginning “when I was riding him…”; although luckily for my ego they have also both confirmed he is not an easy ride!
I am still very careful about who I let ride my horse – he is the most important thing in my world after all – but I can definitely see the benefits of handing the reins to the right person every now and then. I am even considering an actual trip to boot camp for him when I get married and head off on honeymoon later this year.
Ginge, of course, still thinks he should just have a holiday though.