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Head Held High—Cheyenne's Journey

by Cheyenne Reed

With the prospect of showing in my future and as I'm becoming more well rounded in the fundamentals of horsemanship, this lesson turned my focus to new aspects of riding: countenance, style and presentation. As Barbara reminded me throughout my lesson, “Chin up, look around, own the arena!” Riding involves so much more than sitting in the saddle and telling your horse what to do. As I've written about previously, it's a constant conversation between myself and my horse as I run through my extensive mental checklist. The key ingredient is making everything look effortless, smooth and well thought out.

Even when things feel chaotic and I'm sorting through what to do in my head, externally I have to keep my composure. Not-so-surprising, this assists in calming tense situations as my horse feels my own demeanor relax. Assertiveness has never been something that comes easy to me, so today's ride was definitely an exercise to grow my confidence in the skills I have developed and to reflect them in the way I carry myself.

Through cavalletti exercises, circles, serpentines, I was able to push my limits in all three gaits with all three seat positions—sitting, jumping and standing. I had to constantly remind myself not to collapse my presentation in the midst of sticky situations—I had to really engage myself physically and mentally. One of my favorite things Barbara told me is , “If you're going to make a mistake, make it the most beautiful and elegant mistake you possibly can!”

I have to instill in myself the idea that it isn't about doing everything perfectly, instead it is about fixing the mistakes and communicating my response to the mistake to my horse quickly and fluidly. Whether I'm right on track or missing the mark by a little—or sometimes a lot—I've learned that with some attitude and presentation, you can make anything look cool, calm and collected. A good, healthy confidence is not only what you feel internally as you strengthen your skills, but also what you display in the way you carry and compose yourself.

As a person who has had insecure tendencies in the past, riding allows me to grow both physically and mentally . It's encouraging me to be a more self-assured person in relation to where I'm at in my horsemanship journey. Yes, I make mistakes, and I wouldn't have any room to grow if I didn't! No matter win or lose, right or wrong, smooth or jerky, I will keep my head high, because what matters in my journey is the winning feeling I have inside.

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