Much of what we do when we're with our horses is driven by instinct or past experience, but can we explain exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it?
Being a riding instructor, I have come to understand the importance of really understanding the why behind what I teach you all to do. Sometimes I want to just say, "Because that's how I've always done it, and this technique has proven itself as a good one over many years," but I owe it to my students to really know the mechanics behind why something works. Teaching lessons isn't just a barrel of laughs, it's hard work and takes a lot of my mental and physical energy. It's also hugely beneficial to me personally because through educating myself in order to better instruct my students...I'm educating myself. :)
Yes, a good amount of instinct is helpful when it comes to riding. People with excellent instinct are usually referred to as "naturals". Others have a more analytical brain that craves understanding what they're doing. Neither is better than the other, but it's important to understand which kind of rider you are so that you can best support your learning process. The analytical rider will, at a certain point, need to learn how to "shut off" their intellectual side in order to develop "feel" in their riding, and the natural/instinctual rider will have to learn the names for the techniques they are performing and why they are doing those things, or else they will have a hard time building upon them, understanding their trainer, and progressing past a certain point.
Recently I watched a lecture by Dressage rider and trainer Robert Dover where he broke down some of the basic principals and techniques of Dressage for an audience of young riders. Dover's explanations of mysterious things like half-halts are so crystal clear that even my husband–who has been on a horse all of three times in his life–fully understood the whole lecture. My analytical side was jumping for joy the whole time because finally someone was explaining (really explaining) some of those "feel" things about riding that are so hard to grasp and yet are the "basic" foundational pieces needed in order to progress in any riding discipline.
In a future post I'd like to delve deeper into a few things that Dover brings up in this lecture, so please take the time to watch the video and pay attention to any moments where your brain goes, "Ahhhh so that's why we do that..." or "So that's how that works..." One of my favorite parts of the talk is when he stumps the audience by asking, "Where does our energy come from?" The answer happens to be something that I have been tuning into and working on lately while riding. It's a super important thing, but I rarely hear trainers talk about it in lessons. Do you know the answer?