“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” – Winston Churchill
The greatest challenge is not in learning lessons, but in applying them in as many other areas of your life as you can in the few precious years you have on earth. Some of my most important lessons have come to me while in the saddle on Leo, my kind-hearted Hanoverian.
The last few weeks of lessons have proven to be particularly generative, as I’m finally learning to approach canter transitions with sufficient correctness and refinement to properly influence Leo to obey my will. As with any horse or human, Leo has his preferences, difficulties and bad habits, but as his rider I am constantly concerned to help him overcome his difficulties, correct his mistakes and overcome any opposition he presents in as graceful, economical and constructive manner as possible.
I’ve found one particular principle of successful canter transitions to be broadly applicable in life: the strike-off. Executed properly, striking off into canter is an elegant transition that allows the horse to maintain its proper position without any particular influence from the rider for several strides. As riding master Col. d’Endrödy noted: “There is only one rule, but it is most important: the horse must be struck off into canter, and not driven into it!”
This principle is as invaluable off the saddle as it is in it. If you ever find yourself forcing something to move, you’re likely “driving” rather than “striking off.” When on the saddle, this means that you’ve not yet placed the horse in the proper position for him to fulfill your wishes freely (he must be straight or bent slightly in the correct direction and the lateral mobility of his shoulders must be unobstructed). When off, the same thinking applies, that is, the factors of circumstance must be aligned properly before you signal for the action you desire.
Absent this, you’ll perpetually suffer from a common yet under-diagnosed condition called “premature evocation.” You’ll summons action before the time is right and you’ll forever feel like the world is against you. It’s not that they’re against you; they just weren’t yet in position to fulfill your wishes. Fortunately, there is remedy for this malady and as a result, an easier way to live.
Like good riding, mastery of this skill takes time. You must acquaint yourself with the theoretical framework of the problem and avail yourself of every opportunity to put the theory you’ve attained into practice. You must develop the right manner of thinking that allows you to cultivate – over time – the sensitivity and uncommon sense we call wisdom.
The next time you find yourself driving your world crazy, think about how you might better position things so that you can strike-off in a way that an uninitiated spectator on the sidelines might say: “He/she made that look effortless!”