Written with Chronicle of the Horse's "One of the 50 Most Influential Horsemen of the 20th Century" - international gold medalist eventer, Tevis Cup winner, and former USEA president Denny Emerson - and featuring profiles of 23 jaw-droppingly accomplished riders in nine internationally celebrated equestrian sports, you'd think that How Good Riders Get Good: Daily Choices that Lead to Success in Any Equestrian Sport would be a practical how-to-make-it manual for those high-octane riders who dream of winning at the Olympics, Worlds, or Medal-Maclay. And it is. But How Good Riders Get Good is also an essential guide for any rider, riding instructor, and rider parent or spouse, because it isn't only a book about how the world's best riders become the best, it's a book about how every rider can become his or her best.
Success in riding isn’t based on talent, wealth, or plain old luck, Emerson explains, it’s the result of a rider’s choices. Outlining seven Areas of Choice – “your horse sport, your life circumstances, your support network, your character, your body, your knowledge, and your horse” – he describes how riders of any age, background, and ability level can take up – or take back – the reins of their riding lives and move purposefully toward their goals. It can be challenging to be that frank about our circumstances, priorities, and choices, but it's also freeing. Once you know what success truly means to you, it’s easy to take great strides toward becoming a "good" rider.
I would know: at first, this book stopped me and my horse, Pegasus, in our tracks. I couldn't simply read it as I'd planned; I started going through the questions myself. I was shocked to discover how much my goals have changed since I first brought Peg home ten years ago. At that time, I planned to compete him at Preliminary level in eventing, and gallop to a constellation of one-star wins. What happened? Job changes, family changes, moves, injuries. Somehow my nearly-seven-year-old horse had become nearly-seventeen, and for me, success had come to mean something very different. What I truly want most, I realized, is to help Pegasus have a decade or two of healthy, happy senior years, and for us to have fun together through them.
So I thought: What would it mean for me to be a good rider now? Paging through Good Riders, I decided that I'd need to be fitter and more sensitive in the saddle, so that my riding could be more like gentle yoga for Peg's aging joints and muscles. I'd have to find a sport or two that my old campaigner could enjoy with a minimum of risk. And I'd definitely need to know as much as possible about every aspect of caring for a senior horse.
The right choices - for me - were suddenly clear. I added a weekly longe lesson on one of my instructor's horses to improve my seat. I signed up for the free fitness analysis our local health club offers, and I'm sticking to the exercise program they gave me. (Would I do it for myself? Maybe. But what wouldn't we do for our horses? :) ) I also found a hunter pace and a trail ride Pegasus and I could attend this fall. Most importantly, though, I asked our (wonderful!) vet to give Peg his first annual "healthy horse" ears-to-tail checkup, asked her a million questions, and have been following her recommendations for his feeding and care.
Don't get me wrong: these changes have created a mountain of work, they've demanded some tough choices, and I know they're only the beginning. But with Peg's bright eyes and smiling muzzle greeting me every morning, and How Good Riders Get Good sitting on my tack box for inspiration - which echoes even when the Nationals-bound riders borrow my copy! :) - I know it will all get done, and I feel confident that it will all be “good.”
Want to accomplish anything with horses, and get a leg up on any success you want to achieve in life? Read Denny Emerson and Sandra Cooke's How Good Riders Get Good. The only question the book doesn’t answer is the question just for you: How successful do you want to be?