We’re at the point in the year when most riding activities are slowing down. Many of the major year-end events have crowned their champions, and weather and holiday activities might keep you from having as much time in the saddle as you’d like.
Even if snow and ice keep you from hitting the trail, or year-end work stress means less arena time, there are always moments to look back on and find a gem of wisdom to help you set off with the right foot as you embark on your goals for 2022.
Following the 2021 AQHA World Championship Show, AQHA Professional Horseman Robin Frid took time to post on Facebook about an unlikely stallmate he met during the big event—amateur barrel racer Tiffany Lujan, the 2021 champion in her event. Frid, a longtime and successful horseman, training and coaching many all-around event champions, noticed the care and attention Lujan gave her horse and recalled a time when learning from those in other—even very different—events wasn’t that uncommon.
“These big shows used to be when all the disciplines would come together and we could all watch each other,” he said. “With as big as the shows are now, it’s just not as common to get that opportunity. When I was younger, I’d make the effort to go ride in the arenas with the cow horse guys and the reiners—Bob Avila, Benny Guitron, Steve and Carol Metcalf. It was a huge learning opportunity for me. I could learn how to get my horse to turn better, how to have more body control, and other things I hadn’t seen in my own events. Because the shows are so big, we just don’t have that opportunity to be around all aspects of the industry. Stalling by Tiffany helped me remember that.”
Additionally, Frid said he never got to watch Lujan run her pattern (including one that set a new arena record in the prelims and the run that broke it in her finals), but he noticed the attention to detail she had with her horse—and thus the connection the pair shared.
“Her care for her horses was bar none,” Frid recalled. “She had a massage therapist, thera-blankets, legs wrapped. We do many of the same things, but I paid attention to how technical she was about every aspect of her horse.”
But one major thing stood out as something Frid wanted to take home: She saddled her own horse for every ride.
“It reminded me of the importance of knowing your own horse—knowing everything about him,” Frid said. “In some cases, a rider might think they know their horse so well, but in reality, it’s a different story. When you spend time with that horse every day, doing all the care yourself, you’re more likely to be in tune with your horse, which gives you a leg up on your competition.
“We tend to get so focused on our own little world that we don’t look outside the box,” he continued. “When we open our eyes, we can see how the care, the training, the why can influence our success. We forget that, even though we might disagree with something or not prefer an event, you can always learn something. One thing you notice another rider doing can change everything for you and your horse. One tiny thing could make you a better horseman and put you at the top of your competition.”
When you sit down to set your 2022 riding goals, consider writing one that has you stepping out of your box to learn in unexpected places. It might just help you reach one or more of your other goals and strengthen your connection with your horse.