When the horse decides to go left, do you go with him? When she decides to be interested in something else, does it distract you and cause you to adjust what you're doing? Performance riders understand how horses think. They help the horse stay on track. Performance riders don't allow minor distractions to become major issues that block progress toward amazing results. You don't have to be a performance rider. It's ok to be a casual rider. There is no judgment here, just understand that progress will always be limited to your ability to influence the horse rather than the other way around. Sometimes casual riding is just what the doctor ordered. It can be fun. I often take a casual stroll down the trail, but if you're looking to be the true leader, you'll want to adopt the traits of a performance rider.
If I asked you to add up all the minutes you've cantered your horse in the last year, would it be below 60 minutes, or one hour? If you're below 60 minutes per year of cantering, you're a casual rider. If you're below 2 hours, you're a casual rider. If you're below 10 hours, you're a casual rider. Most performance riders will log dozens of cantering hours per year. That means that every time they ride, they integrate at least 5 to 10 minutes of canter riding. That adds up to 60 minutes per week and 52 hours per year. How much do you canter? It's okay if you don't want to canter, and you prefer to master the slower speeds or ride a gaited horse, it just means you'll be limited by the work you do. You'll never experience flying lead changes, pirouettes, slide stops and more. Performance riders, know what progress looks like. Casual riders, don't seem to care, and that's okay... to a degree. As long as you're safe! It seems, casual riders just want to have fun, and that's okay too, as long as the horse is viewed as a partner in progress and fun, instead of a slave to it.
Performance riders spend hours teaching and refining lateral maneuvers such as haunches in, shoulders in, side pass, half pass, vertical flexion, and more because they all lead to higher levels of horsemanship and leadership. Casual riders will never experience these things until they begin to identify with the purpose of progressive horsemanship. At some level, it's okay. You just do the best you can. Maybe someday you'll be inspired to integrate 10-15 minutes of lateral practice into every warmup ride you do. If you are inspired, you'll begin to see things in a new light. If you read this and think you should, but know you won't... just relax, it's okay to be casual.
If you're driving a car, can you see there are white lines that dictate where the car should be on the road? Performance riders notice these lanes of travel related to horses too. They encourage the horse to stay in his lane, and just like driving a car, they make sure corrections are made instantly whenever the car (horse) begins to drift. It's not only a safety issue, but it's also a matter of mastery. Beautiful horsemanship is precise, clear, elegant, and aligned. That doesn't mean you can't have fun as a casual rider, steering through a course like a novice driver. You can have fun, its just that you can't truly become masterful until you take on the identity of a performance rider.
Are you a casual rider or are you a performance rider? Or maybe a little of both?
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