I had a riding lesson this week. We loaded up the horses and went to the teacher’s place. The lesson was occasioned by the fact that with the ‘green’ mare whom I am riding (Hattie) we are running into the odd problem with her.
So the lesson begins. I ride around a bit so that Caroline (the teacher) can get look and what is going on. Next comes the surprise. Caroline looks at my leg and says “I think we need to change your position. Think of making a ‘frog’ with your legs. And by the way, do you put your weight on the outside of your foot in the stirrups? It needs to go on your big toe and the inside of your foot. Then you need to make ‘the frog.’
Well I tried this. I always walk on the outside of my foot. Trying to change the weight on my foot, and make the ‘frog’ stretched muscles and made me feel very uncomfortable. (Since then, I’ve practised walking with my weight in a different position). So we had the lesson, doing exercises on keeping balance too.
I woke up on Thursday morning to go riding feeling as though I did not want to go. I was thinking “What?!! Here I am thinking about bringing on this ‘green’ horse, and the teacher begins by fixing up my legs!”
Anyway, I went. I practised what Caroline had showed me. Lo and behold, Hattie went much better! So I am gob smacked. How does that work?
I said to my riding companion, Tamara “You know, even though Hattie went better today, it was a bit of a blow to my ego to go back to a lesson, to have my leg position corrected! I used to be able, just with a shift in weight to do canter changes from the walk! On any rein. Now I’m worrying about where my legs are! ”
So we began to have a conversation. The thing is, that with a ‘green’ horse, which one is trying to educate, it is about what they need, not about what I need. Uneducated horses need us to be absolutely correct and clear, otherwise they become confused. Riding an ‘old school’ horse is relatively easy, because they are tolerant of our mistakes, and know how to do much of the stuff, because they have already been schooled. Bringing on a ‘green’ horse requires much more of the rider.
So here is another thing that I’m learning. Skill in riding is not about how much I can do and how good I can look to the untrained eye. Skill in riding is about knowing how to offer what the horse needs at any given moment. And sometimes that means unpicking old habits that I could have previously got away with, but no longer. As Caroline said “ The horse is a mirror!”
Riding offers another lesson in humility! I have to ask myself, the question “What do I really want? To look good, at a superficial level, or to make a difference to the education of this horse, for the sake of her fitness, and the sake of the riders who come after?”
Why should I be surprised. This lesson in unpicking unhelpful habits is just another aspect of living the ‘baptismal life’. It’s simple! Caroline, the teacher, is like the Holy Spirit. Her eyes see the difficulty and bring it to my attention. I am ‘convicted of sin’. Not in the sense of being morally wrong, but in the sense of having ‘missed the mark’. My legs ‘missed the mark.’ So having ‘died’ to that way of being, I am now in ‘the tomb’ waiting to ‘groove in’ the new way of being ‘on a horse’.
I await in hope the day when the fulfilment of this ‘death’ both to my ego and to my unhelpful posture will be raised up to a new life.
After riding on Thursday, and talking about the horses, we moved on to talking about being able to ‘learn’ in general. Tamara told me that her son, in grade 3 (8 yrs. old) said “You know mum, there are kids in our class who are afraid of making mistakes.’
Now Tamara’s son is a ‘high energy particle’ he is as smart as anything, with great energy. He is going to make a lot of mistakes, but as he is, surrounded by love, his mistakes will not be the end of the world, but opportunities for learning. What is more, being surrounded by love, and making mistakes, his sense of self-esteem will become firmly established in the genuine achievement and pride of having learned something, through making mistakes.
In the light of the riding lesson, it is no wonder we started talking about that!
Underneath the ‘skin’ of adulthood lies the person who wants to please others. Underneath the skin of adult life lies the person who takes pleasure and pride in genuine achievement. Underneath the skin of the adult lies the one who needs to be continually taught about humility. Thanks to Hattie, Caroline and Tamara, I continue to ‘on the Way’ as a Christian.