current mood: contemplative
So, today while I was driving home from work, I randomly starting thinking about horseback riding. Two friends of mine recently expressed interest in joining me up to the barn I kinda sorta teach/ride at. Its more on a barter/honor system where I ride and teach and no one has to pay anyone anything. Works out well considering I'm pretty broke. I just have to pay for gas to get up there really. Anywho! I was thinking about how there are so many people out there who are so motivated to ride and are completely gung-ho about the idea... until then plop themselves in the saddle. And then instantly you get the "oh shit, what was I thinking look".
You know the look too... because for anyone whether it be a horse person or not, everyone has that first realization as you sit in the saddle that all of a sudden, you know you are tempting fate. By getting on that animal's back, you are relying on it to keep you from meeting what normally you call "blessed ground". They have that look of terror and panic where all they really want to do is immediately get off and run as farrrr away from the barn as they can and not look back.
Sometimes, as much as you mutter to yourself what an evil person you are for thinking it, you sometimes even smirk and smile when you get someone who is cocky and arrogant and thinks they can just hop on a horse for the first time ev-ar and gallop off while roping loose cattle. You get them all prepped on the ground and they boast how it is a piece of cake and even go so far as to insulting the horse they are about to mount, saying things like they can take them and that horses aren't so tough... dude... you've been in a horse's presence for all of 10 minutes... just you wait. They saunter up to the horse, you explain and emphasize certain IMPORTANT things about sitting upright in the saddle and mounting and how to adjust the stirrups on the ground to save time. All to this more smirks from Mr. Know-It-All-But-Never-Been-On-A-Horse. You just bite your tongue and wait... and then they mount up, have the horse take a few steps and they freeze. Both their body and their face. You wait to see what they will do, but usually nothing. They stammer and you can see the blood drain from their face completely. Not so tough up on a horse now, are you? You, of course, being the humble rider/instructor you are, take it in stride and move on from your moment to get them to be a bit more confortable in the saddle and being 5 feet off the ground.
This is why horseback lessons, even if it is only two or three ever in their lives, is a good way to bring out a person's character. Horse's are by no means trying to bring out the worst in people... just bring out who they really are and quite possibly encourage themselves to rise above their own short comings. You can tell the people who really come to learn. They are the ones that hang on every word you say and fix the problem, or at leat attempt to fix the issue right away while riding. They keep at it even when they don't get the desired response. They acknowledge they are the ones that are the problem and know they need to be more clear for the horse they are riding to "understand" with them. The ones that just get so frustrated and really do not have the patience to challenge themselves are the ones that get fed up, demand to get off, blame the horse for not "obeying" or other see "failures".
You don't have to like riding to be good at it. Though it does help. You also don't have alot of "seat time" when you start. The funny thing with riding is that it is one of those "I've been there before" types of challenges in life. True, it isn't a milestone everyone in their lifetime will encounter, but I feel for those who truly just want to learn, you learn a lot more than you thought you would, but in a very good way.
Riding teaches patience. Above all else, it also teaches humility. I think I've learned some of my best lessons through riding. As corny as that sounds, it is so very true. I have had my share of pride and embarassment. Just when you think you can do no wrong and no better, a horse comes and knocks you off that pedestal as fast as you first got on it.
Can horses also be a judge of character? Sure they can. However, I've been around a bunch of horses and a bunch of people and I've never witnessed this. But, I can say horses do seem to sense certain needs of others and accomodate on a need be basis.
So you ask, how can horseback riding be a judge of character in someone? Because it brings out the person we truly are. Only at our most unsure and nervous state are we able to prove who we are and how we will emerge from it.