When I got back into riding, my initial goal was, I think, something along the lines of "get as good as I used to be." It seemed straightforward enough: my brain remembered the majority of what I had been taught, and my body remembered at least some of it, even if it refused to cooperate when I asked it to do things that used to be second nature. I thought, if I can ride regularly and get fit enough again, it should all come back.
It didn't quite go that way. However, the results are so much more interesting!
My plan starting out was to just find a good horse to part-board, ride often enough to "get it back," and then decide from there if I wanted a coach, and then look for a good one to proceed with. This plan turned out to be a bit backwards, and I really should have flipped it around in the first place. After a couple of months of fumbling around and finding everything BUT the right fit, I finally found a great coach with a great horse to learn on!
So, a year and a bit on, where am I now with my riding? Am I "as good as" I used to be? Well, here's the breakdown, as I see it:
What's "as good as it was":
Amazingly... almost nothing
Rising trot, I guess?
Turns, circles, corners
What's better than it used to be:
Over all balance on the flat
Stirrup-less flat work
Understanding of rein aids, especially the different uses of the outside rein
Manipulating speed and collection within a gait
Applying aids with all or parts of the whole body, not just hands, seat, and lower legs
Half halts and the maaaaaaaannny variations and uses of them
Feel for the horse's movement, including:
-Which leg is doing what when
-When to apply aids based on where a horse is in its stride
-Tension in the horse's body
-Whether a horse is on the forehand or stepping under nicely
-Stiffness and soreness
-When a horse is really into it, and is lifting the back and swinging the barrel
Ground work and lunging
Problem solving resistant behaviours (a big advantage of Syd being a personality-changing weirdo horse -- new problems to play with on every ride!)
Ability to stay calm when a horse is being reactive
My instinct for when what I'm doing is really, really stupid, so I know that maybe next time I should NOT do that ;)
What is not as good as it once was:
Two-point position at all gaits!
My body's straightness -- apparently I've gone pretty pretzel-y in 15 years off, and it gets worse when I'm nervous or distracted
Chicken elbows :S
Jumping enthusiasm ;)
Stirrupless two-point (as in, I don't currently have one)
Leg yields (They used to be so instinctive. Now it's a very deliberate effort.)
Bareback riding (which I actually have yet to do since I came back to riding)
Keeping my butt GLUED in the saddle at the canter
My enthusiasm for galloping whatsoever (though I only ever felt good about that on Razz, the utterly unflappable)
Hill work -- not a lot of hills to work on here!
So, it's nice to see the "improved" list is longer, and it does feel that way over all. The big better/worse differences are not how I would have predicted things would happen, but I'm also not the same person I was at 17. And I'm very pleased with how it's been happening so far, and with the coaching and guidance I've had along the way. I'd like to update this list periodically to see how it all develops! And hopefully I can get de-pretzelled. I'd really like to stop having to think (or hear) "SHOULDER!!" on every left turn! :D
Mainly though, what I'm coming to realize, is that comparing myself to what I "used to" be able to do is interesting on some level, but at a certain point it's like comparing myself and judging myself against another rider. Comparison can be a very negative approach, and I think it's more helpful to work with where I am now, and continue to develop that. Not get nostalgic about the rider I "used to" be. I'm the rider I am now, I'm enjoying myself, and I know I've come a very long way!