If someone were to ask me fifteen years ago, “what do you consider your riding style to be?”
I would have not been able to explain myself. I knew the feeling but wouldn’t have been able to put that feeling into words. Growing up I did compete in Western disciplines, but I am in no way a competitive person. I was successful but also completely content with second place, third place or no place; I was simply grateful to be able to haul out and attend such an event.
While all my childhood friends were labeling themselves as up and coming barrel racers and ropers I labeled myself, soul rider. I simply rode because it felt marvelous in my soul; that’s a deep thought for your average twelve-year-old girl. I would haul to gymkhana’s to get a run in, but after my run was over you would find me bareback on my mare in a halter and lead rope (tied to make a rein) riding around in the practice arena or cheering on my more competitive friends.
I believe it was around my thirteenth birthday I was gifted the book Horse, Follow Closely written by GaWaNi Pony Boy. As a young girl who rode a Paint mare and had an understanding of horses most girls my age did not, I cherished his words and this book; I read it closely and cover to cover multiple times. It was at this point I realized my riding and soon-to-be training methods were different than most.
At age 14, I landed my first training gig (for someone other than myself) at a boarding facility. This owner was intrigued by my riding and asked if I would help her get her Appaloosa gelding started on gymkhana patterns. After my success with Sydney, (Appaloosa gelding) another owner asked if I would work with her paint gelding as she could not ride him more than a few times a year due to time constraints. Both initial encounters with these horses I rode bareback until I had a solid feel of their movements and personalities.
Through more years of riding, training, reading, and researching I’ve come to learn that most (and myself) would label my equestrian style as, Taoist*.
*According to www.dictionary.com the definition of Taoism is the philosophical system evolved by Lau-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu, advocating a life of complete simplicity and naturalness and of noninterference with the course of natural events, in order to attain a happy existence in harmony with the Tao.
Although I don’t consider myself a strict practicing Taoist, I appreciate the insights and use that path towards my horses. When I say Taoist approach I’m referring to seeing my horse as the trainer and I try my best to align myself with her.
Linda Kohanov said it best in her book, The Tao of Equus, when she wrote, “Rather than dominating or disregarding nature, as most philosophies and religions attempt to do, Taoism recognizes that the primordial wellspring of existence expresses itself through nature”. Simply meaning if you quiet your actions, open your mind, and arrive at that frequency your horse functions on, your soul will hear what your horse is speaking to you.
If you have a certain riding style that resonates with you I would love to hear from you! Comment on this article or reach out to me on my personal Instagram @unbridledmama. Thank you!
Emily Griffin is a mama to two stunning daughters, a wife to her hunky husband, an experienced equestrian, and an Arizona native. She resides in a very small town in Southeastern, Arizona. Her days consist of raising children, everything equine, reading/ writing, and balancing the fine line between motherhood and insanity. She appreciates nature, the smell of a satisfying rain, and the lovely sunsets the Arizona deserts have to offer. Her life is unbridled in every sense of the word and she wouldn’t have it any other way! Follow her on Instagram at @unbridledmama.