It’s been a while since I was last reminded to be a “disciplined” rider.

Having been on a semi-scattered winter training program, I have been spending more time riding on my own, within the confines of an indoor arena. While I’m endlessly grateful for the opportunity to continue working while snow blows outside, I’m a little bit upset with myself for not using this privilege to its fullest. While I could be making the most of the off-season, I’m letting nasty old habits resurface.

The worst part is, I know what these vices are, and I usually know how to fix them. So why don’t I?

I guess it’s because I haven’t been very disciplined.

This ugly truth became apparent when I started working with a “winter coach” after my regular coach headed south for the season. Before we started our lesson program, the “winter coach” got on my mare to feel her out.  As she rode around, she asked me things like “Is she always sticky off your right leg?” and “Does she usually bend better to the left?”

I was embarrassed and ashamed, but I had to tell the truth. Yes, of course I know she drifts out on her circle when I ask her to bend her body around my right leg. Yes, of course I know I have a tendency to over-bend every horse I  ride to the left. Yes, of course I know she gets tense leg yielding right. Yes, of course I know she can be disobedient to the canter cue.

It got even worse when I got on. I had to tell the coach to remind me to keep my right hand back, and to keep my elbows loose. I’m telling her what to tell me – why can’t I do that when I ride on my own? Why haven’t I done anything about these obvious errors? The fact that I can acknowledge a mistake I’m making, and haven’t been working to correct, is awful.

I just get lazy about it, and don’t think it’s a big deal if these things “slide” a time or two. But it is a big deal. I would be devastated if we scored a five on our 15-meter circle because it was actually an 18-meter circle, when our quality of trot should have earned us an eight (damn that drift!). I would be heartbroken if we missed our canter transition in a test because of a schooling disobedience. Even worse, I’d be crushed if we had a silly stop cross-country because I wasn’t riding with my horse ahead of my leg.

The good news is, I can see the problem loud and clear.

When I get on tomorrow, I vow to be more disciplined. I promise I will be the best rider I can be. I won’t beat myself up for not knowing all the answers, but I will hold myself accountable for not answering the questions I know how to answer.