2. Blissful(?) Ignorance

Blog 2 – “Blissful(?) Ignorance”

In the past I felt a great need to be seen as a “good” and “successful” rider.

In my late teens, throughout my twenties into my thirties I defined success as doing well in competition - and being very busy.
Early in my riding career I enjoyed and had some success as a showjumper.  I had a reputation for being able to take “difficult” horses and get a tune from them.  The more difficult the horse the “better” rider I was.  Those were the days when I thought nothing of being legged up on to a horse while it was cantering around me in circles.  I was not listening to what those horses were communicating about how they felt about being ridden.  I did it because I could. 

My ego was bigger than my skill-set.

I had a truck-load of rosettes and trophies, walls full of certificates validating my qualifications and busy livery yard.  I took horses in for (what I then called) schooling and to compete but realised I was never going to be able to make a living as a “rider”.  To subsidise that meagre income I needed to teach.  I kept training for, taking and passing exams, drove all over the place and taught enough lessons to support myself doing what I really wanted to do – ride.  

I was a terrible teacher, simply regurgitating what I had learned in order to pass my exams, while blind to the fact that, since none of my clients were changing I was teaching them nothing.

As a young woman was convinced that I needed to be taken “seriously”.  (I was quite a serious person then, but packaged in a superficially attractive package, and I felt as if I were judged more by the way that I looked that by what I had to say or what I did.)  I became increasingly defensive and was frequently aggressive in my interactions with people, some of whom deserved it, and with horses, none of whom did.

There’s a huge rush in jumping the last fastest clear round and in winning.  

But, unless you’re brilliant, and even if you are, you lose more often than you win.  

Instead of enjoying my relative success I resented the fact that I was single discipline rider and became convinced that to be taken seriously I needed to event.  I had also been repeatedly told while I was training for my exams that I was “built for dressage” and although, at the time, going around in circles only seemed worthwhile to me if there was at least one jump on it I thought I had better learn more about the whole “flatwork” thing, not because I wanted to, but because I was told and believed that I should. 

Dad and his band "Jurassic Rock"
It’s interesting how little “throw away” comments can turn out to have a deep resonance and meaning.  My Dad got a horse when I was about 11, I think he did it because if he was ever going to see me and my equally pony-mad sister Katie again then he’d better have one. 

“Kate” was a suspiciously cheap, very well bred Trakehner and was a fruitcake.  To my shame, I hated that horse, I have only ever disliked two horses in my life and this was the first.  She was deranged, unhinged and manic, in hindsight I think she had cysts on her ovaries and she is just the sort of horse that I would love to have in my life now.  If I had listened to instead of hating that horse I could have learned a whole lot more a whole lot sooner, but I was too busy being a “proper” rider to bother with her…  

Anyway, when I told Dad that I was going to start doing some dressage he said, “But all the beauty gets taken away from the horse, it’s too controlled.”   Of course (outwardly) I dismissed his “ignorant” comment replying with something like, "Well you’d know nothing about having any kind of control with your bloody horse anyway.” 

I have (outwardly) dismissed a lot of wise words at the time of delivery, and not only from my Dad, and some of those words have come to mean a whole lot – but only once I was ready to receive them.

Next time "Being "Good" wasn't good Enough" 9th Feb, until then happy riding,

For those searching online for more “instructional” resources than offered in these blogs please make use of my video downloads www.ashenec.co.uk


  1. Well said Becky. We can all have big ego's when we are young, I was particularly agressive as a youngster and indulged in martial arts for many years. I learned discipline, control and above all self-respect and that I could actually do something if I tried hard enough. The draw on horses never left me from a young child and eventually I got my first horse, I was married, two children in tow and this was 12 years ago. I knew nothing then and he has taught me everything I know so far (about him as a horse) and lead me to many instructors, manuals, books courses etc. He has plenty to say I just had to listen.

  2. Thank you for your comment, well said to you too.

  3. I think we can all look back to our younger years and see the same "failings" - but aren't they just part of the learning curve? If only we could start a whole new wave (WHOLE) of ethical training (of people by horses and horses by people) to right the wrongs? Sadly, one lifetime isn't enough.... but you are doing amazing work at Ashen to help undo the wrongs.. xxxx Keep on going!!! xxxx

    1. Thank you, here's to a new wave to ethical training that respects our horses and our individual belief systems.

  4. Im really enjoying your blog and admire the way you are always learning, researching and passing on your knowledge to help humans and horses. However, one thing you've said has been bugging me:you taught me starting a long time ago and I never thought you were a terrible teacher! You've helped me and my horses so much along the way and I look forward to the next stage xx

    1. Thank you Emma, going back EVEN(!) further than when we met I was a terrible teacher but I really appreciate your comment and having had the honour of working with you for so long, and I too look forward to what's yet to come... Bxx