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Spin off thread re: Rider Talent. Specifically what is it?

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  • Spin off thread re: Rider Talent. Specifically what is it?

    What is Rider Talent?

    Okay, I'll start:

    A) A good body type that goes along with innate athleticism. Good muscle tone, strength, fitness and excellent body control. This type of rider is able to absorb instruction and make changes in their body according to the instruction. Correct habits can be taught and incorrect habits can be swiftly corrected.

    B) Good natural balance and relaxation. This rider is able to get with and stay with the horse and doesn't create problems by being crooked, off center, or tense.

    C) A natural affinity for the horse. The rider is able to learn about horses in general and can "read" any given horse in particular. He learns to understand the horse's reactions. This type of rider can learn to anticipate problems and fix problems quickly through smart horsemanship, not force.

    D) A mind that can absorb more complex concepts as he progresses and apply them. This rider begins with the basics of steering and pace as a beginner and moves through the levels as he learns about concepts such as contact, balance, self carriage, etc.

    E) Is able to be taught. Accepts constructive criticism. Asks questions when needed for greater understanding. Channels frustration into focus.

    F) A good sense of rhythm, balance, and FEEL.

    Whew.... anyone else?

  • #2
    I'd agree with all of the above.

    Additionally, I'd consider talent as having an aptitude to learn something in particular before any effort to learn that thing is ever attempted.

    I also think rider talent can be developed in those who may not be particularly athletic to start with.

    I also know of riders who are talented but don't ride with any structured technical ability. Sort of like indians riding mustangs in the 17th and 18th century who rode well but had no formal science of riding like the military cavalry.

    If you want to equate performance with talent, then I think you have to measure the performance part of the equation all by itself because there are so many different paths to arriving at the same ability to perform at a certain level, but the primary type of talent that any particular rider invokes to arrive at their level of ability, may vary from rider to rider.


    • #3
      I agree with the aformentioned.

      I'd also like to add

      -has a great sense of empathy for the horse. This is a rider that will do what's best for the horse instead of what is easiest for them or gives the quickest results. They understand that this is a partnership. So you pull from a class when your horse is NQR instead of covering it up, you take a day to lightly hack in a field if getting burnt out, and you do proper flat work instead of gimicks and gadgets.

      I don't feel this is something a trainer can really teach; the rider either has it or not.

      It doesn't matter how "talented" one is, if (s)he uses a horse like a bike to ride a course, (s)he is missing a very important aspect of riding in my book.
      Hunters, Jumpers, & Welsh Ponies
      All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown


      • #4
        Feeling for

        1) the own body! And being able to use it!

        2) the horse! If you can not connect with a horse you should really think about it

        3) for rythm

        and 4) You need a mental stability that helps you work out different situations

        I fure sure think that if you have the drive everything else can be learned. Just look at some of the top stars that weren't the junior superstar. In an old book about riding I once read that riding is 1% talent and 99% sweat and tears and showjumping is 0,5% Talent, 1,5 % luck and 9% sweat and tears!

        and my reciept for becoming an good rider
        45% Horsemanship
        45% Hard work
        5% Talent
        5% Luck
        and if you like topping sweet or sour had loads of extra Luck


        • #5
          Agree with what has been posted and also a healthy sense of self. I don't think self worth should be based on whether or not one won that day. A great rider needs to give it their all, learn from their mistakes, avoid self bashing or excessive boasting, and maintains a clear focus.

          Great thread and it gives me an idea for another spin off!!


          • #6
            "Talent" is a myth.

            Read Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code.

            Greatness isn't born. It's Grown.
            "Friend" me !



            • #7
              Originally posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post
              "Talent" is a myth.

              Read Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code.

              Greatness isn't born. It's Grown.
              Sorry but I totally disagree. I see girls with nice horses, great instruction, who work hard and are just not talented riders. They have no feel for the horse, are stiff as a board, and just don't comfortable on horseback. They love it and work at it, but have no natural affinity or talent.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Rel6 View Post
                Sorry but I totally disagree. I see girls with nice horses, great instruction, who work hard and are just not talented riders. They have no feel for the horse, are stiff as a board, and just don't comfortable on horseback. They love it and work at it, but have no natural affinity or talent.


                • #9
                  I think it is like that in every sport. You can have the shape/body type that helps you have an easier time of it, but I think at some point if you don't also work hard you can get passed up by those without the ideal setup for it if they work harder.

                  I'm short (5'0) with short legs (26" inseam) so I have to work a bit harder than someone with a longer leg/shorter torso, but I don't mind working hard on something for longer as long as I get there eventually.

                  The one thing that I don't think can be taught is rhythm...I used to teach music and beginning dance when I was in high school, and there were some that just couldn't hear a beat! Although with horses I think you can overcome that by learning about pace and practicing enough so you have a good eye. In dance...not so much
                  "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)


                  • #10
                    I definitely think there is such a thing as innate talent. Just as an example of how genetics can affect sports talents, if you look at running, some people naturally gravitate towards sprinting vs marathon and struggle with the other due to muscle composition, etc. In riding, aspects of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems make learning necessary skills easier or harder for certain people.

                    I think naturally good balance, good posture (which can also be learned and trained), good coordination - both gross and fine - and the ability to rapidly learn a new body movement and make your body do it right thing the first time contribute to the speed of progression. Us mere mortals may get to the same place with enough practice, but a talented rider can have something described to them, such as a correction they need to make to their position, more rapidly.

                    Having taught lessons to brand new riders a bit in college, there is definitely a difference between riders. When two riders have trouble keeping their leg under them posting, one rider might be able to consciously make the correction and maintain it more than half the time by the end of one lesson. Another rider might need repeated reminders over multiple lessons before they can keep their leg under them enough to get out of the saddle, and with some riders I have to run alongside them holding their leg in place for the first couple laps around the ring before their brain and spinal cord "get" where their leg needs to be and send the right signals. This is from teaching college students who are at a reasonable level of general fitness but have never ridden before and are now taking lessons once a week on the same pool of horses. Some of these differences might also be due to body type and how easy it is for them to maintain their position (e.g., a top-heavy large guy vs a smaller woman with a lower center of gravity) - again, something else that might contribute to what people call talent or ability to rapidly progress up the levels.

                    I agree that there are also people who have innate "horse sense" and are better at intuiting what the horse is going to do and how the horse is going to react to their aids.
                    The plural of anecdote is not data.
                    Eventing Yahoo In Training


                    • #11
                      While I agree with almost everything said ( though not hte myth part) I think talent falls under 2 catagories.
                      The born to it and the taught.
                      the born to it are those riders who seems to have the natural talent that the rest of us wish we had. Those who can sit on anything and understand the horse, and ''make them look good'' even if the horse is a 2 mover. Those who can sense the horse and what their flaws are and know intinctivly how to ''cover them up'' ( not lameness, illness and the like but just the horse in general) so they appear to everone around them look like a 9 mover and a 9 jumper, dressage horse etc.

                      the taught are those of us who may have natural born talent but need the nudging from a good trainer to bring it out before it falls into place.

                      The other taught is those who loves the animal, will do anything for /with the animal and just want to ride to the best of their ability (trade barn work for ride time/ lessons etc.) they may never step foot in the show ring, but they just know how to keep out of dificult places and how to keep the horse under control should something happen so neither of them get hurt badly. And because of their love for the animal they will just have the instinct on how to do what is best for them and the animal. they may not have hte best questioin, or know how to make a bad mover look good but because of their love for the animal they dont care and all they care about is what we used to call horsemanship.

                      Did that make sense?
                      Friend of bar .ka


                      • Original Poster

                        "The Talent Code" makes an interesting point about this issue. It talks about a specific type of practice which is necessary to progress in any type of learning. The author calls it "deep practice" and I do think that it applies to riding.

                        I've noticed that many, many students participate in lessons as though they are an aerobics class. Everybody walk, everybody trot. Jump, jump, jump. Twice a week, they practice, practice, practice. What they don't do is really concentrate and learn the new concepts and apply them- start, stop, rewind (ah, that feels right), start, stop, rewind...... ON THEIR OWN. In between lessons, most riding students just sort of ride around "practicing," but not "deep practicing." Sure, an ambitious student might drop their stirrups (that makes you ride better, right?). But I seldom see them tackle the nitty gritty.

                        This is made much worse by the well meaning parent that watches the child ride in between lessons and coaches them while they practice. I really, really believe in leaving riders alone sometimes. They need to learn to feel on their own! They need to learn to ride without an outside voice in their ear all the time!

                        I periodically ask for things like a turn on the haunch or a leg yield in my intermediate and above classes. I get a lot of blank stares. I walk them through it over and over and over again. Several months later, I'll ask for it again. The same few kids have mastered it. The same majority have make no progress. Because they didn't bother to work on it. They didn't use "deep practice." They didn't return to the next class and ask me to judge their progress. All of these kids are what I consider "great students." They're a joy to teach.

                        An average kid that I will make a correction about her contact and will talk about "connection"- there, do you feel that? I'll see that kid "practicing" on her own later in the week. She'll be riding around with reins flapping, turning with the inside rein only, practicing circles and whatnot but it's as though that big concept just went in one ear and out the other. She didn't pick up the book I recommended. She doesn't watch our pro ride and ask me, "is that what you're talking about?"

                        That's what I see a lot of. The opportunity is there. I'm an energetic teacher and will work as hard as a student will. I will suggest books, articles. But participation in lessons isn't enough to be one of the talented few. I think the kids think that if you take enough lessons and jump enough jumps, that's what it takes. Maybe talent is connected to ambition?


                        • #13
                          I think that courage is another important aspect of riding talent. A fearful or over-cautious rider is frequently unable to progress beyond a certain level, even is she possesses other physical and mental attributes that amount to talent.

                          A blog featuring the musings of a semi-neurotic adult amateur rider on riding, training, showing, life.


                          • #14
                            I don't know if I agree with the "body type" thing. I have never been "ideal" at 5'5" 150lbs. But I've been told I was talented by many trainers, judges and so on. I also hav friends who are bigger bodied and extremely talented with any type of horse.

                            While the ideal body type makes for nicer photos, I don't think it plays a part towards talent. I also know several riders who have the ideal body type and are not naturally gifted.
                            Iron Star Equestrian

                            Heels Down, Eyes Up, Plan Ahead


                            • Original Poster

                              I'm thinking of "body type" more as it relates to general athleticism. Certainly a willowy thin body is what we think of as "pretty" up there. But I've had plenty of short riders, "bigger" riders and whatnot who were very athletic and made great riders. I've also had pencil thin riders that were useless up there.

                              Someone mentioned posture and I absolutely agree with that. Poor posture indicates a lack of core strength and an inefficent use of a body's parts. Without proper posture a rider can never master the correct biomechanics of riding.

                              And again, a God given "good" body type is only one of the factors. Most riders are strong in some areas and weak in others. Desire or ambition is what drives the individual beyond the average.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Equestryn View Post
                                I don't know if I agree with the "body type" thing.
                                I'll have to second this. Some of the top hunter riders have less than ideal body type. I think much of what separates the super talented from the just average talented is an innate feel. I showed ponies against John French and even then he had a softness and understanding that the horses and ponies loved and a style (for lack of a better word) that compensated for any physical limitations on his part.

                                I also agree with the posters who have brought up courage, especially for the jumpers. It takes a lot of guts to ride for speed around the big sticks.


                                • #17
                                  Confidence and trust in themself and the horse that does not erode when it gets tested. You know, the kid that gets dumped, shakes it off and rides back down to the fence with the same confidence they had pre-fall.

                                  I think proportions are important for the body- long legs and arms in comparison to the torso. Short arms are a challenge to overcome over fences because it is so much harder to follow the horse when to give, you have to use your upper body a bit. So you can be overall tall or short, fat or thin but proportionately need the long limbs. You rarely see someone with a very tall torso and short limbs....


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Rel6 View Post
                                    Sorry but I totally disagree. I see girls with nice horses, great instruction, who work hard and are just not talented riders. They have no feel for the horse, are stiff as a board, and just don't comfortable on horseback. They love it and work at it, but have no natural affinity or talent.
                                    "Talent" just means that someone is really good at something, but we don't know why. People who work hard and do not progress have likely not been taught what to do, how to do it, how to learn, how to evaluate what they are doing, and more.

                                    Most riding instructors are not educated educators. Have virtually no knowledge of human anatomy. Have no knowledge of how to instruct others in the use of their bodies. What they DO generally have is a high opinion of themselves

                                    It is truly impressive the lack of mental flexibility and growth that is present in the horse industry. People are willing to so, so, so, easily accept the development of new "nutraceuticals" new types of footing, new drugs, new saddle trees, new boots, new show coats, new and improved hard hats, safety vests, etc, etc. but they will NOT consider thinking outside the (religiously) typical, 'traditional' box.

                                    The notion of "you've got it or you don't" is Bullsh!t.
                                    "Friend" me !



                                    • Original Poster

                                      Isabeau, I respectfully disagree with you. This is a spinoff of the "superstars" thread. We're talking about what makes a superstar. It sounds like you haven't had good experiences with trainers and I'm sorry to hear that.

                                      Perhaps you've come across "trainers" that aren't good teachers, but I've had the pleasure of coming across many, many outstanding riding teachers in my time. It's been my experience that even in a learning environment with an experienced, knowledgeable, and creative teacher- some students show "talent" and some do not. Even the not so talented can enjoy this sport safely and with some good success in the right hands.

                                      I continue to read and learn. I enjoy threads such as this one that give me new insights. I continue to book clinicians at my farm to encourage my students to experience different learning environments.

                                      Oh, and I'm a trainer and I do have an education background and I have studied the biomechanics of riding, so I do have an understanding of the human body, how it works and how it relates to riding the horse.


                                      • #20
                                        JSalem, maybe this was inferred by your listing of "feel" (and they're related) but a talented h/j rider has a dead-on eye for the jumps, period.

                                        I equate it to the pro golfer's ability to putt, actually. It's a talent honed by hundreds/thousands of hours of practice to increase it's accuracy, but some people have got an incredibly accurate eye and some people don't.

                                        I'd also wager that, like a jockey, a talented h/j rider has an extraordinarily fine-tuned internal "clock" for the horse's rhythm and incredible reflexes to make split-second timing decisions far better than us mortals.