One of the most fundamental pieces of horsemanship is understanding how to communicate with your horse. In this, the three greatest hindrances I see in people are fear, frustration, and lack of balance in the saddle.
Fear will cripple your ability to use your hands, legs, seat, voice, and even breathing in a way that the horse can understand. Most of the time, fear is stemming from the fact that most people just haven't been around horses and aren't sure what to expect most of the time, which is why we like to put you in a round pen with your horse and allow you to learn some things from the ground. Simply watching the horse move around you and responding to your body cues often takes away a great deal of the new rider's fear. We then show you how to keep comfortably in the saddle at a walk, trot, and possibly even at a lope so you will be more equipped to communicate with your horse without having to be worried about falling off all day. (Understand, too, that even falling rarely hurts unless you are afraid during the fall, causing yourself to tense up and hit the ground like a rock. If you're more relaxed and fall the way a skier falls, you should be able to simply dust off and keep riding. It's the reason so many drunk drivers survive car acccidents.)
Once a rider has some confidence, it usually isn't long before frustration takes the place of fear. Frustration typically comes from the riders impatience. Remember that anybody can manhandle a horse, but we are more interested in teaching a horse, so that rather than jerky, bracy, stubborn movements from an anxious, prancy horse, we will get fluid, soft, and supple movements from a calm and trusting, dependable horse. This kind of training does not happen within a set timeframe of a month or two, but it simply happens when it happens, at whatever pace the horse can handle. The Californios would usually be about four years in training six or seven days a week before taking their horse from the bosal to straight up in the bridle.
Finally, a rider must take Jesus' advice and remove the telephone pole out of his own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from his brother's eye. That is, if your horse simply is not progressing, the problem is almost certainly with you, not with your horse. You are probably trying to get too much too fast, or are using your cues in a way the horse just can't understand, or are even leaning in the saddle in some direction hindering your own desired movement, like trying to move a rug you are standing on. At some point, every rider who would progress in his abilities must go find someone better than himself to ride with for a while. This is what we strive to help riders do here at Rising K, and if you outgrow us, we'll be sure to point you to someone else who can teach you something (and we'll also probably try to hire you .)
A rider, somewhere along the line, must make a decision, not only of what kind of rider he wants to be and what kind of horses he wants to make, but he must decide what kind of man he wants to be. Do you want to be the type who forces a horse around, getting the job done by jabbing and poking and pulling on him constantly, or do you want to take the time to teach yourself before teaching your horse, and get the job done by making your horse into a partner rather than a four-legged machine?