Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2018 >Daily Dispatch #285

October 12, 2018: Tennis as Metaphor

I often think of horse people as being tennis instructor. Sometimes the other players are my coaches and sometimes I’m their coach. And sometimes the conversations are coach to coach.

Susan Harris, a Level 4 Centered Riding instructor is my coach. I always learn so much in talking with her. I have yet to connect with any other instructor to the degree in which I have connected with her.

She arrived here at noon or thereabouts, she said later than planned, and rather than come into the house first, she immediately went to the barn where she was to teach seven or so lessons. There was a little bit of chit chat as Pat, who was to ride her Friesian dressage horse

Ben, got him ready for his lesson. Susan greeted me warmly, which I did not expect because there were so many others who already wanted to talk with her.

I paid close attention to all the lessons she gave. They were an hour or longer in length. I didn’t fully understand what Susan was asking Ben and Pat to do – Pat is an accomplished rider and has been working for some time on complicated moves, such as leg yielding, shoulder in, and moving on the haunches and forehand. Coincidently, Pat is also an accomplished tennis player.

But I could see little things – for example, that in doing a shoulder in, Ben’s front leg was moving a bit fast, so it made it difficult for him to move the right leg in front of it.

After, I watched as Susan instructed less experienced horses and riders, who all were at various levels of ability. All the riders were asking their horses to do maneuvers related to what Pat was asking Ben to do. It was more piecemeal, which was good for me because at the conclusion of the day I had a better sense of the more advanced bigger picture.

The high point of the day for me was watching Rita on Gabby. Rita is a lot like me – she is a book person and attempts to grasp concepts first on an intellectual and then a kinesthetic level. Gabby, like Raudi, Hrimmi, and Tyra does not suffer fools gladly, which means that she will not do as asked if she isn’t first given clear and concise cues. Such horses (like people) will take the easy way out, and tend to equate easy with being lazy. I would (right now) much rather work with these horses than their more reactive counterparts; because like Rita, I need time to think things out.

I’m not sure that I now have the sequence of events correct, nor do I remember them all. But Susan did work with Rita on moving forward on a straight line. This seems elemental, but it is not. You have to have leg contact, and for this reason, Susan attempted to make Rita her more leg aware by having her use her inside leg when going down the center line. And when Gabby did this, Susan reminded Rita to praise her.

There was so much going on in this one lesson. I’m going to have to take the time and go over my notes because my short term memory is fragmentary. Short term will eventually become long term, but alas, long term memory is more subjective.

I can imagine my sister Eleanor reading this, and stopping midway though because this entry is so horse-specific. El, by the way, used to be a tennis player. She has long arms and for this reason had an amazing backhand. I was not a tennis player – I’d swing at the ball and it would seemingly go right through the weave. But riding, this is my sport.

My lesson with Susan is first thing tomorrow morning. For me, this is going to be like going to Wimbledon and getting a lesson with one of the pros.

Next: 286. 10/13/18: Hanging out with Susan Harris

Horse Care Home About Us Dispatches Trips Alys's Articles