Horse riding is an art of coordination and balance, a perfection of movement in which you must become one with an animal that is in every sense superior, but needs guidance.
Nature gave horses, with their sensibility, the ability to disassemble human emotion down to its constitutive elements. They confer power. They open minds. A free gallop provides a liberating feeling that, perhaps, can only be compared to riding a motorcycle at full speed.
The fundamental difference between an imaginary love of horses and the reality you encounter when you start working with horses through recreational riding arises at the exact moment you realize just how particular an animal a horse is. People who fall in love with riding and remain in the sport for years, despite all the risks of nasty falls, are primarily driven by loyalty. Horses are a love and a passion. In this type of recreation, the main instrument is a wild animal, and not just any wild animal. At 500 to 600 kilograms, a horse’s power is unfathomable to a human.
Riding provides an unimaginable emotional roller-coaster: from euphoria and adrenalin, through enormous fear, all the way to a specific feeling of freedom, power and strength. Quite opposite to everything else. It is not a sport, it’s a skill. It’s an art of coordination and balance, a perfection of movement in which you must become one with an animal that needs guidance. The human, in a completely unnatural position, coordinates the movement of the horse; the rider must achieve a perfect vertical balance, in the basic riding stance. Anything else would derail you as you walk, run and jump on someone else’s legs.
People who start riding often don’t even think about their first fall. That first fall off a horse is perhaps the most important moment in riding. It can build fear and cause a blockade or… Good coaches transform the first fall into a moment to teach any novice rider success, into something motivating, instead of demoralizing.
I started riding when I had appetite issues. I was losing weight very rapidly. After one training session, I ate like a pack of hungry wolves. The physical labour invested into riding is also different from anything that any other sport has to offer. Working in the stalls, preparing the horse to leave its paddock, saddling up and, finally, riding itself, reset the human being to default settings. And default settings are important.
Manual work with the horses allows for stronger bonding between the human and the animal. In time, the human learns to channel all their negative emotions away when they approach the horse, to tune their energy to the animal and the situation. Horses feel it and then they reward it.
Riding coaches are there primarily to instruct the novices that riding is nothing like a workout with a ball. Horses are something entirely different. It is not sufficient to just learn particular moves and increase your own motoric performance. The animal must respect the rider. You cannot lie to an animal.
Due to all this, fear is not a good ally in riding. A rider trying to incite fear in the horse is setting themselves up for failure. Everything depends on the horse, whether the rider will fly through the air or crash to the ground in defeat. And horses don’t forget that easily. If you get on their bad side, they will remember. They will look for an opportunity, waiting as long as it takes, to pay you back for mistreating them.
Fear is an even worse companion to a rider afraid of horses. Experts in sports riding claim that in an ideal relationship, the horse respects the rider. A horse seeks neither a servant, nor a master. It expects a rider. Therefore, someone to guide, steer, encourage and respect it. Only then, it will open up with all its strength and loyalty that comes natural to every horse. It will follow its rider anywhere. It will love and trust them. It will jump off a cliff, knowing it is jumping to its death. If its rider decides so, the horse will not second guess their decision. Knowing that, how could you not love horses?
By: Miljana Nešković