Heels Down | Teen Ink

Heels Down

April 5, 2019
By BookBug SILVER, Clovis, California
BookBug SILVER, Clovis, California
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Anderson, don't talk aloud. You'll lower the IQ of the whole street." -SH

“Heels down!” “Back straight!” “Check your diagonal!” “Get him moving!” Are all things I have had shouted at me from across the sandy arena as I am riding a chestnut gelding named Jake. And without question, I follow my trainer’s command. I trust Marti, well aware that this was part of what I was asking for when I signed up for riding lessons a little under a year ago. I asked to be taught to ride and to ride well. I have learned to ride and am still learning how to improve my riding to the point where I will be able to compete. What I didn’t entirely know I would learn when I asked for lessons was a few life skills.

Before I launch into what I have learned, I want to clear something up; Horseback riding is a sport. Don’t believe me? Fine. Explain why it is in the Olympics. Show me that you can control a 1200 pound animal with just your legs or stay on the horse bareback at a trot. Any equestrian will tell you that horseback riding will work the muscles in your legs, your core, and lower back in nearly every lesson or ride. Fun fact on that note; most lessons last nearly an hour.
I apologize for being a touch harsh, but I suppose this is a good example of a skill I have learned from horseback riding; confidence. When you are trying to get a stubborn or lazy equine to obey, you need to be confident in what you want them to do. You need to make up your mind and not change it, because in a beautiful way, a horse will always be able to tell when you are confident, angry, or uncertain. If you are uncertain or nervous, it will make the horse nervous. If you are confident in that you can take that jump, the horse will take it when provided with the instruction to do so. That confidence I have been able to apply to my interactions with others, like how I was confident enough to take a stand in the fact that horseback riding is a sport in the paragraph above. A sport that I have worked at.

Work ethic is another one. For the first five months of taking lessons, my payment to Marti was work. Three days a week, I cleaned stalls to be able to ride. Many of us have been told that if we want something we have to work for it. Yet hearing that and putting it into action are two different things. I want to ride, and I worked to earn it. I learned how to turn that want into work, something I continue to do. I want to win a blue ribbon, I need to train, practice, and work for it. Being able to apply that same work ethic, I can graduate early, and by continuing to apply it, I know I will go farther and farther.

Perseverance is another thing I have learned. It doesn’t matter if I am frustrated, it doesn’t matter if my horse has decided to be a jerk, it doesn’t matter if I fall off. What matters is that I don’t give up, that I keep pushing my horse forward, that I get back on. It takes perseverance to just to get to a small competition, nevermind win it. And if I can persevere when my helmet is soaked with sweat, when I can’t feel my toes and am covered in dirt, I can persevere when I am struggling with a math problem or a plot hole in my most recent story.

“It’s okay to ride mad, it’s not okay to ride mean.” Is one of Marti’s favourite phrases, particularly because the horse I ride is… well to put it simply lazy and stubborn. And when I am attempting something new, getting him to cooperate can be frustrating. He’ll go too slow, go around the jump, or try to turn when I need him to go straight. I usually do end up mad at some point in the lesson, but not only have I learned to turn that frustration into a greater determination, but to control it. Controlling my temper on the back of the horse has taught me how to control it in the classroom and with my siblings.

There is so much more to be learned on the back of a horse than I can say. So many more skills to be mastered in the barn. Confidence, work ethic, perseverance, and self-control are simply the tip of the iceberg in this sport. There is so much more awaiting me in the dust, hair, sweat, and the occasional tears, than I can possibly know. I can only hope that every person that puts on the helmet, pulls on the boots, tightens the cinch and shortens the reins has learned the same and that somebody who has read this is willing to taste it for themselves.

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