Explaining Lessons: Don’t You Know How to Ride Yet?

Don’t you know how to ride yet?

Congratulations.  You’ve hit the Great Cultural Divide between riders and non-riders.

When you hear this question (frequently spotted during budget edits with spouses, but also occasionally found circulating in the wild among friends, family, and co-workers):  STOP.

You are in imminent danger of getting yourself in trouble by giving The Earnest Explanation.  It feels so darn reasonable to explain exactly what you hope to accomplish by working with your trainer.  We’re all working on stuff, and we’re excited. We’ll be tempted to pepper our wheedling…oops…I mean, discussion, with the details.  We want to improve.  We want breakthroughs.  Working with a trainer provides a corrective mirror that speaks: it’s that pair of professional, exacting eyes through which we can see ourselves.  If we can get our explanations clear enough, the non-rider might understand…

MAYDAY! Mayday!  We’ve hit justification.  This is when we are most at risk for speaking in tongues.

The translator is broken.  What you say is NOT what the other person is going to hear.


Here’s the image to keep in mind: you are on different sides of The Great Divide and each of you is holding a tin can connected by a string.

I ran a few sample phrases through the string. Listen closely.  You’ll be shocked at what comes out on the other side.

  • Half-halt:
    • Why don’t you learn to stop ALL the way?
  • Rollback:
    • The WalMart pricing system. What does that have to do with horses?
  • Shoulder-in:
    • What your doc did to your shoulder the last time you came off; put it back in.  (Definitely do NOT talk about Shoulder-in.)
  • Half-Pass:
    • What do horses have to do with wide receivers? There are footballs?
  • Shave the Edge:
    • The horse needs it’s hooves sharpened for barrel racing.   MORE money?
  • Sight Your Distance:
    • Horses make you farsighted.  How much will riding glasses cost?
  • Choose Your Line:
    • You’re telling me we have to PAY for you to learn how to pick a line and wait in it?
  • Setting up for the Heeler:
    • No way.  We are NOT paying for Reiki on the horse.  Acupuncture and massage was bad enough.

Let’s try again: imagine…we’re working on half-halt timing for a canter pirouette. We may not use the words; half-halt, canter, or pirouette.   Try to leave out horse if at all possible.

Incredulous tin can holder: Don’t you know how to ride yet?

Incredulous tin can holder (i.e. spouse) is expecting a one sentence answer.  Hint: give a concrete, transportation-related answer.  A sturdy sounding (but vague) explanation dealing with safety is preferable.   Something along the lines of:

“I’m fine tuning the braking system and need some outside consultation to make sure I’m installing it correctly.”

This explanation has a better chance of giving you a semi-permanent line item in the budget, and you won’t have someone wondering a) why you haven’t learned to STOP by now, and b) why in heaven’s name do you have to learn to canter in a little circle?  You may even get this response:

“Oh…uh…sure..gotta have good brakes up there, safety first.”

Wait a few minutes before causally mentioning, “Oh it might take some testing to really make sure it’s installed properly.  Let’s budget for 6 months worth though I doubt we’ll need it, just to make sure…padding.

You’ve just set yourself up for saying (5 months later); “Gee, you know we had those, uh, consultations budgeted in already for the braking (which is working great now, thanks honey!), why don’t I go ahead and work on the electrical system while I’m at it?  The rear engine has been stalling out lately.”

It’s worth investing in a couple of tomato cans and some string, so you can practice secretly at the barn, and hear what REALLY comes out when you start speaking “horse”.

(Tip of the helmet to Liz Goldsmith for broaching the topic.)

Copyright © 2009. The Literary Horse. All rights reserved.

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