Riding, Smart Trust and Letting Go
We have ridden on the beach several times, enjoying splashing trots and canters through the salt water, or just walking about exploring the sand or sandbars in the ocean. Yesterday when I asked my stallion for a canter he leapt forward joyfully and I felt a question. “Should we go faster?”
I have thought many times about asking him for a full-out, fast-as-you-can-go gallop on the beach. And every time I have left it at a thought. I realized a few days ago it’s all about trust. Not blind trust, but smart trust.
Smart trust is a concept explained in a book by that name by Stephen MR Covey and Greg Link. It is about the importance of opening ourselves up to the opportunity of extending trust, and then assessing the implications of extending that trust, including risk. Extending trust without the analysis would be blind trust, and blind trust often leads to heartache.
I opened myself to the possibility that I could trust Kalimo enough to go for it at high speed down that long beach. And then I did the analysis. Would he stop when I asked? If he jumped a pile of seaweed (which he has done in the past) at that speed could I stay with him? I sorted through the answers of these and other questions in my mind and that exercise plus my experience of trusting him in many other situations led me to the conclusion that I could indeed extend the trust to Kalimo that was needed to push outside of my comfort zone.
So when the question was asked “should we go faster?” the answer was “yes, I trust you.” I applied a little bit of leg aid, let go of my fears and put my trust in him. I felt him shift gears from a three-beat canter to a four-beat gallop. I changed my seat to a two-point position to free his back and we flew. According to Wikipedia, the average speed of a canter is 16-27 km/hour and the average speed of a gallop is around 40 km/hour. So compared to our fast canters down the beach, this really did feel like flying. As we sailed down the beach at the water’s edge I felt the salt spray on my face, I heard the thundering of his hooves, I felt the power of his strength beneath me, I enjoyed the way we moved together, and I experienced a lightness and joy that is hard to describe. And it occurred to me that from trust comes joy.
Take Home Message for Riding Instructors
As riding instructors we have a role to play in helping our students understand the difference between blind trust and smart trust. Blind trust is when someone trusts their horse to take them through situations that perhaps they or their horse are not yet ready to tackle. Blind trust results in disappointment and injury. Smart trust helps riders determine if they and their horse are ready to try something new, and if through the analysis process they determine something is missing, new goals emerge. Riders also need to be able to trust themselves, which is easier done after a smart trust analysis.