Ride Your Own Ride

by Jamie K. Dieterich, 2012

One of the most important things you can do for your horse and for yourself is to "ride your own ride." We hear that many times, but what does it mean?

During check-in, keep focused on the horse's attitude and position relative to the vet judge and the recording secretaries. A momentary lapse can place the horse's rear unsafely close to a person or another horse. You know what's safe and correct; don't get sidetracked by all the other activity.

On the trail, riding your own ride doesn't necessarily mean riding by yourself, although that is often helpful. It does mean that if you ride with someone else, and that has its benefits, you should still stay tuned into your horse. Try not to give in to distractions. If you're riding with someone else, and it becomes evident that the horses are not compatible either in disposition or pace, politely go on separately. If on your conditioning rides you constantly have to remind your horse to quit jigging, don't overlook that during a competition. Your horse, like your children, need to hear a consistent message.

At obstacles, there is a common tendency for the second rider to try the obstacle like the first one. "Monkey see, Monkey do" is common for horses as well as riders. The first one through might be right - or not. Or maybe it's not an issue of the right way or wrong way, just a different way to do it. You need to do what's right for your horse. It's often helpful to turn your horse facing the other way so neither of you has a preconceived notion on how to do the obstacle.

Often the judge will tell you to "go up the hill, around the tree, and come back down." Some judges want to see if you pick the best way for your horse. Some want to see a specific route. If you're not sure, ASK. The obstacle, not the instructions, is the test.

Practicing good horsemanship means doing justice to your horse. You must maintain the trust he has placed in you. To do that, you have to be fair, consistent, and "ride your own ride."