Everyone knows it takes work to get good at riding. It takes many hours, a good coach, wads of dough shelled out, hours feeding and caring for the horse, fitness, flexibility, knowledge…Everyone who rides knows how time consuming the little hobby called HorseBack Riding can be. But it takes more than just time, it takes more than just money. It takes more than natural talent, a good instructor, the right horse, an indoor arena, the perfect saddle, the best feed money can buy, and so on and so forth.
To really get good, to where this stuff “clicks” and becomes part of your own heart and soul, it takes a little thing called Grit.
I’m not talking about getting the type of good where you ride like a trained monkey around in an arena with some old German guy in breeches giving you instruction that you carry out, although having instruction is important and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not talking about the type of good that takes home ribbons and trophies, although there’s nothing wrong with that either.
I’m talking about being a real RIDER. A problem solver, a thinker, a feeler, and a doer. The type of rider who can take what they learned in the lesson from the lady in breeches out into the open field and try to carry out the same feeling. The type of rider who can understand why their horse is doing the thing its doing, and can work through it. Or at least try to work at it – or even better yet, prevent problems in the first place as often as possible.
Grit can’t be taught. It can’t be given to you. It can’t even be bought with scores of lessons.
It has to come from within you – you either are born with it, or work to develop it, or some combination of both.
Grit means you are determined to learn, to get better, and will do what it takes to get there.
Grit means you tough it out in bad weather, and you don’t just quit riding because it’s cold.
Grit means you find an education in the bad rides, the tough horses, the poorly built horses, and rough situations.
It means you’re willing to get up day after day and keep trying, even if you feel like you’re just never going to get better (but you will get better).
It means you live to learn, and you love the process of learning – which includes fumbles, tears, falls, and frustration.
Grit is not the same thing as stubbornness; a refusal to change plans when things aren’t working. But it does mean you are developing the strength of character, mind and body – to get to where you want to be, and will stop at nothing to get there.
Though the approach today is totally different, the image of the buckaroo riding the bucking bronco represents the old attitude of mental toughness – a stick-to-it-iveness that seems to have been lost over the decades.
I think today’s society is so focused on comfort, convenience, and fast results, we forget what benefits a little strength of will can bring.
Whether you’re a classically trained dressage rider, a hunter, a cowpoke, a backyard rider, a pleasure rider, it doesn’t matter. Your mental strength is what will make the difference between the perpetual amateur, and a real rider.