Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lesson Learned

This is a photo of me (in my part-time role of riding instructor) with one of my students. Her name is Veronica, and her mom-- who's quickly being indoctrinated into the role of Horse Show Mom-- was kind enough to snap the picture. I really enjoy teaching Veronica. She has natural ability plus she's also quite determined. The result is that usually she pushes herself to succeed rather than me having to whine, plead and go into theatrics to get my point across.
To be honest, I really didn't think I'd like giving riding lessons. My ex-coach and friend, Susan, asked me if I'd like to run her lesson program after I got injured in my infamous jumping accident. Since I could no longer compete, it seemed to Susan like a good idea. Everyone else thought it was a fine idea, too, except me. Mostly to keep my friends and family from thinking that I'd become withdrawn and depressed about my injuries, I dragged myself to the job, in a manner of speaking, kicking and screaming. I think that I had some real unresolved issues about being yanked from competition sooner than I'd planned. I'd wanted to relinquish my amateur status on my own terms. It had never occurred to me that I'd become, in the eyes of the United States Equestrian Federation, a "professional" before I had decided I was tired of chasing blue ribbons in the amateur adult hunter and equitation divisions. But fate-- and a certain Hanoverian mare-- made the decision for me.
It's taken me about 2 years to really settle into the groove of being a riding instructor. While I cannot EVER envision myself doing it more than a few days a week, I actually like sharing what I've learned in about 40 years of riding huntseat. All of those clinics I rode in, all of the trainers who taught me, all of the fine and/or quirky horses I rode and all of my peers who challenged me to ride to my best capabilities served me well. Little, fundamental skills that I took for granted-- like how to adjust my horse's stride in a line of jumps to get first 4 strides, then 5 strides-- are grand moments of epiphany when explained to a novice rider. What's even better? I get to relive learning all the basics of good riding once again. There's a certain reward that comes with that. It's almost like reliving my youth. When I get a chance to share in the successes, struggles and failures of my students I'm taken back to a time when I also fought fatigue and discouragement to try, once again, to "get it all right." And that's pretty much why I've come to enjoy my job.
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Gina said...

I don't think I could ever be an instructor. I guess I AM kind of an instructor, though, I help run a class at HorsePOWER which is a therapeutic riding center. But that's really basic - "John, hug your horse. Touch your knee. Pet your sidewalker. Let's go outside."

I'm not patient or organized enough to really stand in the middle of a ring and teach.

Anonymous said...

I've helped out some of my riding buddies a few times, but I'm afraid to say, we often tend to talk more than ride. Sometimes, I manage to stay on track, but not always. Except with my Mom, then I'm always on track, and exasperated with her.


Cindy Hale said...

I really admire you, Gina, for working within a therapeutic riding center's program. That's really something special!

And Sas, I know what you mean about teaching your mom. My sister and I used to help our mom back in the days when she used to ride. In fact, I might have to write about that...

Anonymous said...

OK, Cindy. Inquiring minds want to have made numerous references to the disabling accident you had, but I missed that blog on what happened and how your recovery faired. Is it something you could re-share with your readers? It is always inspiring to hear survival stories. If you don't want to relive that part of your life, no worries. Its enough to know you are still riding!

Cindy Hale said...

Well, I didn't write about the accident on my blog because it happened a couple of years ago and I only started doing this blog in October... I think. Time flies!

In my Life with Horses column in Horse Illustrated, I wrote about the accident. It was called My Fall from Grace.

But since it's a daily "thing" that I live with, I will re-share what happened. I have to be in the right mindset, however, as it's still really hard for me to confront the whole trauma all over again.