We don’t always think about horseback riding as teamwork, but it really is. As the rider, we are directing the horse to do certain things. Whether it’s the gait or the direction or even the movement, we are requesting that the horse follow our cues. The horse, tries to respond to your cues the best she can. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not.

The horse has her own personality and training. Horses, because they are living beings, can have off days. They can, as they age, become arthritic or tire easily. They play hard and can get hurt. As a rider, we need to be sensitive to our horse. And, yes, some horses have learned to act up so they won’t get ridden. Can you tell the difference between a horse that is having an off day and a horse that wants a day off?

Many of the horses we ride have also had previous training. They may have been taught that a tap means to trot and the rider was taught that a squeeze with for legs is the cue to trot. This is where understanding and teamwork comes to play. Should we retrain the horse or ourselves?

As a rider, we need to keep our emotions in check. If we get frustrated, those feelings will be telegraphed to the horse and the horse will respond accordingly. When we get upset, we typically stiffen up. The horse does not respond well to a stiff rider. Stiffening up and getting frustrated are normal reactions when things do go the way we expect them to, but, if you were on another sports team, it would be bad sportsmanship to yell at your teammate. We need to think about our horse the same way.

By riding our horse calmly and asking patiently, we win the trust of the horse and the horse will continue to try to please us. When it all comes together, the rider and the horse appear to be moving as one with grace and ease. All because of great teamwork.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility. She is the author of the forthcoming book Fifty Blades of Hay.