I’m beyond excited to be a part of the Preppy Equestrian Blog Team! To start off my first post, I thought I’d give a (hopefully) short introduction on who I am. My name is Alex Banks, my horse’s name is Finn and we are based in Louisville, Kentucky. I have been riding for the majority of my life; 12 years out of 17. Gosh, that’s a long time. I started out with saddle seat for the first 6 years then spent around two years doing small classes at local hunter/jumper shows. Nothing fancy, just 2′-2’6″ classes. When I purchased my first horse, Mac, I switched over to eventing and have been in love with it ever since. I had Mac for a little less than a year and then I switched barns and purchased my current horse, Finn. Finn was a 5 year old who had only done one training level event. In the two years since I have had him, we have moved up from beginner novice to qualifying and competing at the American Eventing Championships at training to successfully completing three preliminaries this fall.
Success has not come easy, as anyone who has brought a young horse up the levels knows. It takes dedication, patience and, most of all, perseverance and humility. I didn’t follow the tips below perfectly, but I promise that if you try to follow them, you will see progress.
Tip number 1) Try to remain as calm and positive as you can when riding. Horses are all different and all respond to your (the rider’s) emotions differently. Finn is a naturally sensitive horse. He gets nervous when learning new things and becomes extremely overwhelmed when he believes he has done something wrong. So, I make things easy for him so that it’s hard for him to do wrong. If learning shoulder in, ask for a little, maybe three or four steps, then go straight and keep them forward. Keep it positive and make it harder only when you feel like your horse will be successful. Nothing is going to be perfect the first time. Some horses learn faster than others, but never expect perfection first time out. And if it doesn’t go as planned, stay calm and don’t get upset. Positivity is your best friend.
Tip number 2) Never rush your horse’s progress. Especially when moving up levels, don’t rush it. It doesn’t matter what type of riding you do; jumpers, eventing, dressage, whatever; listen to your horse. You want the next level to be successful. For horses, the time it takes to build confidence differs. Some horses have the ability to move up three levels in the course of a year. Some horses take two years to move up two levels. Each horse is an individual and should be treated as such. There is absolutely no rush to move up so just take your time!
Tip number 3) Make sure you find the horse that’s right for you! Each horse is an individual just as much as each person is individually unique! Some people mesh better than others and the same goes for people and horses. Much of the time, you can rely on your trainer to help you decide if the two of you will get along. Choose a horse that you will want to be around every day. Chose a personality and work ethic in a horse that works for you and you will be far more likely to withstand the set backs and upsets that inevitably come with horses.
I will not lie and say it has been easy with Finn. I’ve cried and thought about quitting on a number of occasions but the thought of losing is far more heartbreaking than any upset I have experienced with my riding. What I can always rely on as a push to continue is the progress that I can now visibly see happening. The biggest tip I can give you is to just never give up. There will always be a silver lining, not matter how dark the sky might seem. There has been progress, even if it’s miniscule. Hold on. Take a step back. Breathe. Remember why you started riding in the first place. For the love of horses.