10 Life Lessons Riding Horses Taught Me

10 Life Lessons I Learned In The Saddle I Wouldn't Have Got Anywhere Else

From my first fall to my last lesson, I learned more in that arena than any classroom could ever teach me.

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My trainers taught me so much in and out of the arena and even though I no longer ride, the lessons that I learned will stick with me forever.

1. Keep your heels down, and your eyes up

My trainer always told me to keep my eyes fixed on where I want to go, and unless where I wanted to go was the ground I better keep my eyes up. Just like in riding, I always remind myself that unless I want to end up on the bottom I need to keep my focus on where I want to go in life.

2. Sometimes less is more

There are times when riding a horse when less is more, as riders, we sometimes think we need to go faster or pull on the reins more but ultimately that can cause more harm than good. There are moments in life when we assume we need to go all out in order for something to work when we really just need to find the right balance.

3. If you fall down get back up

The first time I fell off my trainer asked if I was ok and when I said yes she said: "ok good, get back on". I was confused assuming I would just stop for the day considering I just fell off a horse, but she made me get back on to finish my lesson. I honestly think that if she wouldn't have made me get back on and finish I wouldn't have become the rider or person I am today. Just because something goes wrong doesn't mean you give up, it means you try again and fix the mistakes you made the first time.

4. Practice makes perfect

When I started riding I was by no means talented. There were multiple times I wanted to quit because why would I do something I'm not great at? For some reason, I continued to ride, and when I say there was blood, sweat, and TEARS I mean it. There were times I would be on the horses back for 3 hours bawling my eyes out, but my trainers refused to let me quit. I started practicing more and more and it began to pay off, I started winning more and more 1st place ribbons.

5. There is always something new to learn

When I first started riding I thought "How hard could it be? All you gotta do is stay on the horse", but boy was I wrong. Even after years of riding thought, I had learned all I needed to know. I figured from that point all I had to do was perfect what I knew, and you bet I was shook when my trainer started talking about techniques that I had never even heard of before.

6. Life isn't fair

Sometimes life sucks and there's nothing you can do about it. There were multiple times when I rode to the best of my ability with completely clear rounds and still got 2nd or 3rd place. I had to learn that my placing didn't always mean I rode bad, it just meant that someone was simply better than me, or there was a fancier pony or something out of my control that I just had to accept.

7. Sometimes you need to let go

Something I heard a lot while riding was "let go" it was usually referring to someone who was holding the reins too tight. When you're holding the reins too tight it is hard for the horse to do it's job and makes it difficult to get where you need to go. When you let go and give the horse a little freedom it makes both you and the horses lives easier. It's the same way with people. sometimes it's better to let go.

8. Respect

My parents always taught me to respect the people around me, but when I started riding I gained a whole new meaning of the word. I had always correlated the word respect with adults, " respect your elders" or "Show your mom/dad some respect", but riding taught me it extends so much further than that. When you're riding a 2,000lbs animal there needs to be a certain level of respect towards it. At any point that horse could throw you off and do some serious damage.

9. Tough Love

There was a point in my riding career when I was so scared to fall off I would literally be curled up in a ball on the horses back. My trainer would beg me to do something and I would literally ignore her because I thought my way was better. It got to the point where she was so fed up with begging me that she got the other scary trainer to try and teach me. Now I'm a hard-headed person, but I have nothing on him. He would have me in tears every lesson (which sometimes lasted hours). At some point during the yelling and tears, he managed to make a decent rider out of me and I realized that sometimes a little tough love is all someone needs to breakthrough.

10. Let the sunshine in

Something I will never forget is the song Open Up Your Heart. My trainer used to play it as a joke to remind us to sit up and "open up (our) hearts and let the sunshine in". Most of the time he played this song and it meant that we had to drop our stirrups (if you're a rider then understand the torture) so it was only ironic that the next lyric of the song is "face it with a grin, smilers never lose, and frowners never win". Even though we were doing something most of us despised it was something we needed to learn and sure enough learning to ride without stirrups saved my butt so many times.

P.S. If you are looking for a hunter/jumper barn in the New Orleans area I recommend Tavia Equine Center they offer lessons for all ages and abilities.

To all my TEC friends past and present, I love and miss all of you. You all taught me so much throughout the years and I'm so thankful for each of you.

With love,

Thoody

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Why An Athlete Is Not Defined By Their Level

Pressure can drive athletes crazy.
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With tryout season among us, it is so important that this be addressed before the teams for this upcoming year are formed. So many athletes that tryout, don't make the team they want and either quit to "take a year off" or jump ship to a gym that promises them to place the athlete on a higher level. I know that every athlete wants to be on level 5 team, the division is the most prestigious of all of them, especially because going to worlds is the end game for most athletes. The problem these days in the cheerleading world, is that our athletes are trying to level up at a rate that is just not quite realistic. If an athlete is on a level 1 team the chances of her being on level 4 next year is slim. It is necessary for athletes to experience each level for at least a year to learn all of the fundamentals of the level and build on them for their foundation as an athlete to be more concrete. This produces the best athlete possible.

A lot of athletes think that all that they need to jump levels is tumbling and that is just not the case. When teams are formed, coaches take a look at many different things, these qualities include but are not limited to: mental toughness, dedication, tumbling, stunting abilities, pace of learning, dance and attitude. Contrary to popular belief, there are so many factors that go into forming a team. This team not only has to be suitable for individual athletes but putting a team together is like a puzzle and as coaches we have to put a team together that will work well and have all the necessary percentages of skills to be competitive in their division.

We are concerned about building well-rounded athletes, not an athlete that is only capable in one facet of cheerleading. Some athletes are great level 4 tumblers, but have level 2 stunt ability and those two will not equal a level 4 athlete until we boost the stunting ability of said athlete. Putting an athlete on a team to just tumble is doing a disservice to not just the team, but also the athletes themselves. If this athlete joins a level 4 team to just tumble all year, when their tumbling progresses to that of a level 5 athlete, they will still have level 2 stunting skills and won't be put to good use when they are level 5 eligible. A well-rounded athlete is the kind of athlete that wins worlds.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When athletes take their time and learn their level, they are not just learning completely new skills each year, but building on them. If done correctly, each year an athlete should improve on all points of cheerleading and not just one. The rules in each level lead to progressions for the level that it directly follows, so that athletes can safely learn skills by going up the ladder one step at a time. What most don't realize is that skipping steps is such an unnecessary practice. If Susie stays on level 2 for an extra year, she is not "learning nothing", she is improving on the skills that she didn't quite execute completely the year before, this will perfect her performance in this level and give a more solid foundation for her to build on when she is on a level 3 team.

Pressure can drive athletes crazy. Parents, your athletes have so many years ahead of them to be on a level 5 team and go to worlds, so pushing for a 10 year old, that is just not ready, to be on a level 4 team is unreasonable. Let your 10-year-old learn maturity and mental toughness at a level that is more appropriate, when your athlete is pushing herself too hard it takes the fun out of the tryout process and creates unnecessary stress on the athletes. Lastly, please be sure to support whatever decision your coaches make for your athlete's placement, they know your child and they are not trying to hurt their pride, but build them up so they can accomplish all of their goals as an athlete. Know that the level your kid makes this year doesn't define him or her as an athlete, but helps them grow into the cheerleader they have the ability to become!

Cover Image Credit: National Cheerleaders Association

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Tiger Is Back And 2019 Is Starting To Look Up

Tiger Woods might now have the greatest comeback story in sports history.

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It's no secret that Tiger Woods means a lot to the game of golf. I wrote about his influence back in September when he achieved his one and only tournament win in 2018, first since 2013. I did, however, celebrate his win with a caveat of sorts: I wouldn't say he was back.

In golf, no one cares about how big your prize purse is, how many endorsements you've got or even how many tournaments you win. A golfer's career is measured by how many Majors they win. So for me, I couldn't claim Tiger was back until he secured at least one more Major victory before he decided to hang up the clubs for good.

But now, with a Masters championship under his belt and another green jacket to hang in the closet, I can safely say without a doubt in my mind that Tiger is back.

The biggest question with Tiger was whether or not he could carry the momentum from his Tour Championship into the Masters. Tiger has gotten our hopes up before, but things felt different the moment Tiger claimed that first tournament win in what felt like forever.

And honestly, there's no better way for the world's biggest golfer than in the world's biggest tournament. The "Tiger Effect" is very real, and the numbers are there to prove it. Despite having to tee off early for the final round with threesomes instead of duos to avoid storms, the Masters still delivered incredibly high TV ratings as Tiger played his way into contention the past few days. According to CBS, the final round of the Masters delivered a 7.7 rating which is the highest it's been in 34 years. I'll never forget where I was when Tiger won his fifth green jacket, and I'm certainly not alone in saying that.

So what does this mean for Tiger's legacy? For one, the argument of "can Tiger win another major before he retires" can finally be put to rest. I'm not a huge fan of the talking heads in the sports industry, but watching this video of the slue of bad Tiger takes just brings a smile to my face. It also resurfaces the Jack Nicklaus debate as the greatest golfer of all time. Having now secured his 15th Major win, breaking Nicklaus' record at 18 Major wins seems entirely possible. Statistically, Tiger winning another Major is not outside of the realm of possibility. Julius Boros was the oldest player to win a Major at 48, so Tiger at 43 theoretically gives him another five years. One thing's for sure, the entire sports world will be watching.

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