I have never been the perfect rider. I have never had perfect equitation. I did not have a natural eye for distances. And I have had to work very hard for my nerve. I have never had perfect horses; they have all had strange little quirks. However, their quirks made them interesting; just the same, my imperfections as a rider are oftentimes my strengths.

My “flaws” as a rider help me to be a better trainer. Young horses like the fact that I ride with my reigns a tad too loose, and that I break over a little too far over the jumps to really get out of their way. They do not care that I have a slight “hunter slouch.” Neither have most of the judges I have ridden in front of. For the hunter world really does not give a hoot about equitation! So many of the top hunter riders I have seen ride have terrible equitation, yet they are absolutely mesmerizing to watch. There is beauty in their slouch and floppy reigns. They always look soft and relaxed; they let their horses take center stage. Hunter riders are extremely accurate and effective in their riding, yet seem to pay very little attention to equitation. That is one of the many reasons I love the hunter world. For there is no one right way to ride a horse. Every horse is different, and requires a slightly different ride. A good rider can look good on every horse. A great rider can make every horse look good. That is really what hunter shows are about – showing off the horse. Equitation classes strive to fit riders into a box where we all should sit up nice and tall with our shoulders back; our legs should be perfectly in place, our hands perfectly even, we must stay perfectly in the center of the saddle over every jump, and we certainly can’t break over too far or give too much of a release. These are all good things to strive for, but they are not always effective on every horse. There is a lot more flexibility in hunter classes. Our goal is to make the horse look amazing, and that often means letting go of rider ideals.

My riding style was complemented when I was showing in the hunters, yet ripped apart by the few equitation trainers I trained with. It is all a matter of perception. I strive to be a good rider and trainer; not to have the perfect position. Just as I learned to love my horses’ quirks, I have learned to love my own. Perfection is unattainable, but there is beauty in imperfection.


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