I realized yesterday that I never had actually learned to ride in the 50 some years that I have been riding. It came as quite a shock. I have had and have been around horses since I could walk and all of the horses that I have had were already trained or I raised them from birth and had taught them myself. I always rode bare-back, no shoes and no bit; not for any reason it is just I never had any tack to speak of beyond a hackamore and I became very comfortable with the situation, plus it was a lot less expensive and I could be ready to go before my friends had tied their horses to get ready to tack up. I never rode in a ring, I just did trail riding. The foals that I raised just came with me everywhere and I just talked to them and we seemed to reach a very suitable agreement.
When our girls started riding lessons it was easy for them, because they understood the body language and the horses' characters and so they felt very comfortable both around and on them. They had also always ridden bare-back.. They were young enough that the change from bare-back to a saddle was easy and they both became Three Day Event Champions in the Basque Country where they went to school. When they came home and rode our horses and started with all of this discipline stuff things started to change. I remember one day my younger daughter, Amber, was working my foal, Casi, in the ring and asked me how I got her to put her head down. I just said, “head down Casi” that was it; couldn't be easier but the girls were horrified. I think that they always assumed that mom knew how to ride and everything else about horses. Now that they had learned dressage and jumping and knew all about leg aids etc they felt it was time to teach our horses as well. Thankfully the horses adjusted well to the combination and even became very good therapy horses. They seemed to understand who was riding by what sort of tack they had on or whether or not they had to stand at the ramp and be led around for hours.
My new horse, Frisona, is seven years old and had never been ridden or had any life experiences, like traffic, dogs, trees etc. she just lived peacefully on a hill top with 30 other mares and was put into foal every year without much success. Her nature is so sweet and she is so willing to learn and help me that she has been very easy to back and start to train. Now I have a trainer that comes once a week because I feel as if I am out of my league. She is doing great but I have to learn along with her, even if it is just so I can go trail riding. I feel like someone who has driven all of their life and just got into a stick shift; there are so many things to think about, it all used to come naturally and I never thought about it, now I have to remember to stay centered, watch where I am going, learn the leg aids and hardest of all learn to lengthen my legs so that they stay in the stirrups. At 17”2 she is quite large and I am not as strong as I used to be so I have started riding in a treeless western saddle. It is very comfortable and I feel much safer taking a green horse out to meet the world than I would if I were bare-back. It just came as a shock that in my whole life I had never learned all of these things yet always rode very well.