What I am looking for in a rider is balance and empathy with their horse as a living creature. Someone who has feel for the basic paces and hopefully able to tell the right and wrong lead and the right and wrong diagonal. They need to be able to maintain a contact without being stiff and heavy and to be concise in what they are asking. This is quite important; if you ask a horse to walk on, you tell it to walk on.
Temperament in the rider
Any rider that is so overpowering with their desire to do something can sometimes generate an adverse effect or reaction i.e. the more you pull the horse the more he will pull and resist against you.
I don’t want a passive or a dominant rider but someone who understands that the horse is a bigger and stronger animal and that to go down the strength route is futile as it will only lead to frustration and anger.
Horses need to remain in very clear tandem with what you, as the rider, are trying to convey. You must always have a very clear link between your ability and ambition. By doing so you will get a lot more pleasure out of your horse because you will always be trying to aim for something that is obtainable rather than something that is not.
From honesty will come confidence because you will be setting your goals at an achievable level. The rider that says to the horse, ‘I am very clear and happy that we can do this’ is more likely to ‘sell’ it to the horse.
If I am training someone and they say ‘I will give it a go’ I will say - ‘No If you are not happy doing something go down to a level where you are confident’. Relying on your horse to help you out is not going to help you in either your riding or your training.
Riding is supposed to be a pleasure. Some people are quite happy to stay within a certain level and there is no problem with that. If you only want to jump 1 m then make sure you can jump that 1 m as well as you can because you owe that to your horse and yourself.
I personally get a lot of pleasure out of jumping my young novice horses over smaller fences because I am educating them and progressing their training and development.
When is it time to call in the expert?
It is time to ask for help if you find that you are in a cul-de-sac and can’t see where you are going. You are indecisive and changing your training not because you think that is the way to go but because you have not tried it before. In other words you have a scattergun approach in your training which lacks structure and a clear course and plan of action. A professional will provide you with a defined plan for your training.
Partnership of horse and rider
This is a key aspect to your success. Try and find a horse that is compatible with your disposition i.e. if you are the type of rider who rides with a lot of leg or you are quite active in the saddle and tend to get the horse more forward going, then a horse that is hot and very busy is not going to suit you and vice versa. You must also be very clear that your horse is physically able and compatible for the job you are trying to do.
I am not saying that you should give up straight away if you feel that the relationship with your horse has problems, but there will come a point when you can measure if you are making any improvements and whether it is time to change the partnership.
This is not just for the rider but also for the horse. There are certain occasions when a top rider has not clicked with a horse and then with a change of rider the horse has gone on to win championship medals. Don't be too proud, making that decision might make you both happier.