Rider to Rider: What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your riding?

Practical Horseman readers share the kind words that stay in their hearts and minds.

My extremely stern, extremely critical 92-year-old grandfather attended a horse show and as a man of few words stated, “you sit a horse well” when I won. That meant the world to me as he barely acknowledged us kids our whole lives.
Robin Shields, via Facebook


That I’ve learned how to address corners with the right amount of pace – this same time last year I was going through corners on my jumper rounds like a ‘granny!’
Sandy Beauchesne, via Facebook

One time I was riding my friend’s horse and the horse dentist told me he had never seen anyone ride a horse so beautiful before and that I spend too much time at the barn. Little did he know that was the first time I had ever ridden that horse and he is a super tough horse.
Maddie Morris, via Facebook

“You ride with a lot of natural feel, it makes for a beautiful ride, you make it look easier than it is, but that said, if you don’t wear your number I can’t place you in a class.”
Cynthia Chesnutt, via Facebook

My favorite is, “Your horse trusts you and not me.”
Sarah Madderra, via Facebook

I was silly in my teenage years and would ride ANY horse. So, as luck would have it, I elected myself to ‘break’ the wild one… Uh, that HURT. Best compliment: Wow, you survived AND got back up there! Doesn’t sound like much, until you realize just how dumb that idea was.
Kd Munoz, via Facebook

From a dear friend after our last ride together many years ago: “When I die, I want my horses to go to you.”
Janice Griny?r, via Facebook

One of my old riding partners told me that she thought I had natural riding talent. Nothing really comes easily for me, and I was beyond flattered that she would think that about my riding. That’s pretty much the best compliment I’ve had EVER come to think of it!
Amy Metz, via Facebook

After completing a clean, training level, show jumping course I had a woman come up to me and grab my leg shouting “You have to be cheating somehow! There’s no way anyone’s leg can be that still and not be cheating!” My instructor walked up and said “Actually she just isn’t ever allowed to train with stirrups.” This seemed like an insult at first, and then translated into one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten. I now pass the same (torture) training onto my own students.
Julie Horky, via Facebook

I loved it when I got told that for the amount of time I had been riding (not very long) I had a real natural seat and way with a horse. It sounds cheesy, but I felt assured that I found my true calling.
Amanda Ciejko, via Facebook

“You look like Betsy Steiner today.” Yeah, that was a million years ago.
Julia Jensen, via Facebook

A few years ago I showed some photos of my first show (at the age of 6) to a riding friend. She told me she was impressed at my secure leg and contact with the horse’s mouth. I was flattered, and didn’t realize until that point how lucky I was at such a young age to have my mother as an instructor and mentor to give me such a good start in the horse world! She’s still the best trainer and coach around.
Sophie Galep, via Facebook

My favorite compliment was about my daughter’s riding! She was 15 when she got her own horse – a Thoroughbred that no one else could possibly ride. She has such beautiful soft hands and determination and a love for that horse…she nailed it! Everyone commented in schooling and at shows at how well she controlled and rode Blake. She entered him in shows and won Hunter classes?and won a Pleasure class! No one in a million years thought the horse could be “tamed” to win a pleasure class. My daughter is 17 now and still rides “barn horses” to help them and correct them. That was the best compliment of all..to hear all that about my teenage daughter!
Margaret Duncan, via Facebook

Two years ago I was taking a dressage lesson from one of our country’s top eventers. He decided to torture me a little by taking away my stirrups for the lesson. At the end, he leaned over to my friend and said, “She has such a solid leg!! It never moved!” Will never forget that!
Jessica Lacy, via Facebook

I apparently have a knack for working with troubled or otherwise deemed useless horses… (People are very ignorant sometimes.) I got my two biggest compliments when old (two separate old owners) owners saw two of my newly purchased horses competing and doing very well. I was offered way more money than I paid for the horses to be bought back. I declined both offers. You can’t send a horse somewhere where it won’t thrive and will ultimately be unhappy. One of the horses finally passed away at the age of 28 and the other is in her twenties and will live out the remainder of her retirement years at our farm teaching the younger horses respect. I couldn’t imagine dumping any horse because it is old or considered useless….
Jenn Copp, via Facebook

The greatest compliment I have received about my riding was during a lesson I had with my instructor, Martina Pork, who I talked into giving me a lunge lesson on my chestnut Thoroughbred mare, Spring. Martina was leery of a longeing session on Spring as she was volatile (chestnut Thoroughbred ex-racehorse, off the B track). The lesson was fantastic. ?What was supposed to be a brief lungeing session turned into a whole lesson (hour)! Spring was amazing. We trotted and we cantered and she was great?very lunge horse-like (consistent, sensible, responsive, and focused on her job). ?After I dismounted, I discovered I had forgotten to take off my spurs! ?Wow, can you imagine an hour of lunging (yes we know that was too long but Spring and I were good), doing leg exercises, arm exercises, etc. with spurs on! ?On a sensitive, hot Thoroughbred mare! ?The lunge lesson on Spring was the greatest compliment I have ever had to my riding. ?And it was my horse, Spring that gave it to me. Do I need to explain it meant my seat is secure, legs steady, and I am in balance with my horse? Thank you for this opportunity to relive this wonderful moment when I rode.
Barbara Kinsey, via Facebook

The best compliment I’ve ever received about my riding was when I was told by a clinician that I had a lot of potential, that one sentence inspired me and now I’ve gone from only taking lessons once week to successfully showing on the rated circuit.
Victoria Brill, via Facebook

After a lesson, the instructor told me I had quite a bit of common sense about riding. This was very encouraging, as I don’t always have easy access to lessons. Now, when I am working on a problem at home, I hear those words and get a confidence boost and think I might be able to work things out on my own.
Jill Mobley, Missouri

Starting out, when I won a blue in a show that was a mix of students and boarders, my instructor said, “That’s a real ribbon.” I was so proud!
Myndi Milliken, Ohio

A former coach gave me my greatest compliment. I had never been on a horse who could do correct flying lead changes, so when we were training my young horse to do them, she got on her first to see what was happening. After a few minutes, she had her doing them quite nicely. After she got off my mare, she told me that when she gets on someone’s horse, there is usually something missing in his training. She told me that all the basics were there and that I’d done a great job with her. That meant a lot to me. When I’m frustrated with a training issue, I always remember what she told me.
Laurette Childs, Saskatchewan

I was riding a very spooky mare who was scared of EVERYTHING. I finally got her calm and relaxed in the show ring at the Provincial Dressage Championships, we came down the centerline and out of some trees, directly behind the judge’s booth, came a train of golf carts, whirring and rattling along. I felt my horse swell under me; her normal 17 hands turned into about 22, and her eyes were bugging out of her head. She inhaled sharply, and I could feel her heart pounding under my leg. The judge actually turned around to see what my horse was spooking at! I reached forward and scratched her withers, projecting, “It’s okay, I’m here and I’ll protect you.” She closed her eyes and just went forward. The rest of the test was *rather* tense, but she was obedient. But the best part was the comment from the judge on the test was, “This horse trusts you.” It was definitely the best thing I was ever told about my riding.
Jaye Fisher, Alberta

Someone told me it was obvious that the horse I was riding liked me. She was more relaxed with me than anyone else she’d seen ride her. Being told I have a good seat and quiet hands was nice, too.
Maria Packard Croft, Florida

The best compliment that I’ve ever received was from my trainer, Mindy. “She’s a natural,” she said to my mother, who was a former rider. I felt like I could have flown!
Sophia Trzcinski, New York

When I was in college I galloped racehorses in Kentucky. It had been my lifelong dream, but a bad accident my first week on the track left me with a lot of fear to overcome. Eventually I got a job riding for Ian Wilkes and Carl Nafzger, a Derby- and Breeders Cup-winning trainer. Carl told my parents when they came to visit, “She’s got horse in her,” when I was sitting on a racehorse right in front of them. Whenever I doubt my talents, I remember that one of the best horsemen in the world says I’ve got “horse in me.”
Sarah Hickner, Virginia

I have been belly dancing trying to improve a bad hip. After six months of dance, I was riding my horse and my husband was watching. She shied and I went with her?without getting hurt, without hurting my hip. My husband told me it was the best I’d ever looked on a horse. I felt even better knowing that he could see an improvement in my riding beyond that which I could feel inside!
Andy McKnight, Wyoming

My trainer commented on a jumper round at my first show back from a seven-year hiatus: “That was just magical. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.” Completely flattered.
Lindsey Erin Scopel Nader, Michigan

When I was with my first trainer almost 20 years ago, she told me she wished she had a dozen students just like me.
Deborah Dodge Shore, Texas

My trainer told me I had the guts and my horse had the talent to be able to compete at the North American League Finals. It was awesome to hear that as it has always been my goal to make it to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in the jumper finals.
Heather Hartland, Pennsylvania

A former instructor, who many months before sold me the horse I was riding, commented after a jump school, “Your horse hit pay dirt.”
Kirsten Collins, Tennessee

I received a great compliment about the connection I have with my horse. He is phobic about umbrellas and simply can’t be around one that’s open. One evening, I was riding him inside while a rainstorm was going on outside. Someone’s child walked into the ring with an open umbrella. My horse bolted a bit but then froze and stood trembling. My instructor shooed the child away and then told me, “With anyone else, he [my horse] would have taken off and gone insane, but he wouldn’t do that to you because he knows it’s you up there.” A few months later, he hurt himself and I had to ride him briefly for the vet to assess the lameness. Afterward, the vet?whom I’d never met before?told me that he liked the way my horse and I mesh so well together, that he could see it in just a few minutes.
Andrea Stegman, Connecticut

After dressage someone told me my ride was beautiful and a pleasure to watch. After a stadium round a man came up to me and said I rode a beautiful round and that it looked like a hunter round.
Stephanie Gibson, South Carolina

My greatest compliments were actually meant to be insults: “You ride like you were trained by someone from the German show-jumping team” and “you will never do well in equitation, you ride like an eventer.” Both were from old-school hunter trainers, and my horse and I have been working very hard to switch from the hunters to eventing.

A compliment that actually was one was “we can make you an eventer” during my first lesson with an eventing trainer and I had just finished a gymnastics line with a bending four stride after. The horse ignored me jumping in, was way long, I lost a stirrup and slipped the reins to the buckle then dropped my other stirrup and finished the exercise steering with my seat.
Catherine Norman, Texas

I am an eventer and have always been an eventer, but several years ago I attended a college with a fairly good IHSA team and decided to give it a try. I am always up for expanding my knowledge of other?disciplines and bettering myself as a rider. Drawing a horse’s name from a hat and jumping around on a horse I had never ridden before appealed to my need for an adrenaline rush, so I gave it my best. It also gave me a great “toolbox” of riding tools for any horse I may ride in IHSA or in the future. Overall it was a great experience. The best compliment came at one of our weekly lessons. We had gotten a new horse in and I was assigned to ride him. He was not confident and a little sticky to the fences so I basically decided to give a good confidence building school rather than the “perfect trip.” After our lesson, when I was feeling pretty good about how well the new horse ended the day, our coach walked up to talk to me. I will never forget what she said?to me, EVER! She said and I quote, “You ride like such an eventer!” Now, I know, that the way she said it was not meant to be a compliment but I took it as one. I joined the team as an eventer, I learned a lot about being a hunter and western rider and for that I am thankful, but I am still very much an eventer and (mind, body, and soul willing) always will be an eventer!
Julie Downard, Tennessee

A few years ago I had a gelding of mine for sale. I had sent several sales videos out for viewing and one of the responses to the video will never be forgotten. This lady called and said she was impressed with my horse but even more impressed with my riding! She went on to say how beautiful my form was and as she watched the video she swore she was seeing a future Olympian!
Jessica Goza, California

Best compliment I ever received was how “quiet” my hands were and how in rhythm I was with the horse. Never forgot that.
Madelynn E. Hamilton, Texas

I’ve had two different compliments from people that have really me feel good about my riding. One came from my trainer when I rode one of her horses that few people were allowed to ride and she told me that this horse “really liked my soft hand”. It feels really good to know that I can get on horses that are usually considered off limits. The other came from an owner whose horse I schooled for the trainer a few times when she was too busy to work him. The owner said that he couldn’t wait for me to ride his gelding again because I really made him look good.
Kimberly Loushin, Georgia

When I was a teenager, a young friend and member of my 4-H club said “When I grow up, I want to ride as good as Wendy!” Ever since then, I really wanted to set an example for good and responsible riding. I am now a riding instructor on a farm I own with my husband. Thanks Amy!
Wendy Townsend Lippincott, Delaware

If you keep riding like that, you will be unbeatable.
Callie Erickson, Oregon

I was at a show a few months after I bought my mare back in 2005. She was still green back then, so we were just riding a flat WTC class in this indoor arena with deep, iffy footing. As we were trotting down the rail, we were coming up on a pair that was trotting very slowly, so I circled back. Next thing I knew I was sliding across the dirt and my mare had landed next to me. We ended up being just fine, and the judge let us come back in the ring after we got dusted off to finish the class even though we were disqualified. My mare continued to go along like the fall had never happened. After the class was finished and the results were announced, the judge walked up to me and said, “I wish you wouldn’t have fallen. You would have won.” She smiled at me, gave my mare a pat, and walked back to her booth. It’s the little things like that that make my day, make me smile, and make me more proud of my horse than I already am.
Alyssa Ren? Montgomery, Texas

I was riding in a clinic on my Appaloosa who had enough impulsion to send a rider to the moon. He also enjoyed the occasional buck if you were the slightest bit off balance. The trainer wanted to ride him to demonstrate an exercise to the group. Afterward, he came up to me and said that he didn’t give me enough credit and that my horse was very difficult to sit. He was extremely impressed and took me on as a new student after that, although he was completely booked at the time. I still smile about that day.
Aislinn Gandy, New Jersey

I was test riding a 4-year-old Percheron-cross and the man that owned him was an old school cowboy. I brought my English saddle to use, but the girth didn’t fit so I used his Western low back saddle. I climbed the giant and rode off, when I returned from our bronc-fest he thought he would tell me that he’d only had 5 rides on him prior and this was the first ride in a year and a half, but he was amazed at how good of a seat I had for an ?English’ rider. He now has hired 3 English girls from the local college equestrian program to break his colts.
Kt Schramm, Colorado

That I can ride any horse, and get them move smoothly, with soft hands, riding English or Western. Gaited or not gaited, off the track, or trail horse. I’m happy to get compliments that I can ride any horse.
Vanessa Lovel, Illinois

I have ridden and competed in many different disciplines, so I actually have two very different but equally distinct compliments that I found incredibly flattering.

The first I received when riding in the USEA Area VIII Young Rider camp when I was 12 years old. I was participating in a dressage lesson with Diana Rich and she asked my mother where I had learned to ride (probably expecting the name of a trainer or barn). My mother, very proudly, told her that I had learned to ride in our backyard, by the seat of my pants. She also added that I had ridden bareback until I was seven and had grown up riding Western. Diana was surprised and delighted, saying “that” was what she had seen – I was able to follow the horse’s movement with my seat and was not “stiff” like so many young riders these days.

The second compliment that has always stuck with me occurred when I was at a local cowboy’s place trying out one of his horses for sale (an OTTB he was “turning”). I think I was 15 or 16 years old. It was a fairly windy day and the horse was a little hyped up. When I asked for a forward trot, I received leaping, bucking, and spinning. I stuck with the horse and rode it out; using some of the old “cowboy” tips I had learned growing up. We quickly settled and finished our ride. When I was done though, the cowboy (previously a PBR bull/bronco rider) told me that he had never seen a seat on a kid my age and I would fit in perfectly in his old profession! Of course, I never ventured to try it out, but I was extremely flattered by this!
Dorie Leigh Mayfield, Indiana

A friend just told me today, “Riding agrees with you.” This meant so much to me, because riding and horses mean so much to me. It’s nice to know that people can recognize that and think it “agrees” with me as much as I’d like it to!
Faith King Johnson, New York

The best compliment I have ever gotten was from legendary eventer Lucinda Green at our two-day Training/Prelim level eventing clinic last June. She said, “I am in tears about the relationship you have with that horse. You are a star the way you ride him. Don’t let anybody change it. You have it down to a ?T’.” I don’t think I will ever be able to top that compliment. She made me cry when she said it!
Steph Spiece, Pennsylvania

The best compliment I ever received was, “You and your horse look like a great fit.” It meant a lot to hear that we are a great team because I know that it is the foundation for us to accomplish anything.
Caitlin MacRae, Virginia

Several years ago, when one of my divisions at a horse show did not fill, I decided to try my hand at the 1 m. jumpers. I was very nervous about the long courses and remembering the rules, but I decided to have fun and try not to embarrass my trainer. When I finished my third class, one of my fellow competitors said: “So, you must be an equitation rider.” Best compliment ever!
Diana Schatz, Colorado

“You ride like a German.”?while trying out sales horses in Germany.
Meaghan Elizabeth, British Columbia

Last summer, I took my horse to an English show at the county fair because it had a decent number of flat classes, there were paybacks and I could see friends. I went into my first class and just let my horse go. As we stood in the lineup, the judge walked over and said, “This horse is yummy.” I’ve never heard anyone refer to a horse that way. Needless to say, my horse and I ruled all of our classes. After I was done showing, a 4-H mom thanked me for bringing my horse to the show. She said the 4-H kids in the area don’t often get the chance to see a horse of his quality, and he could give them something to work toward. I reminded her they shouldn’t give up, as I was also a product of the county 4-H program as well.
Thom Cameron Denely, New York

Recently, my instructor got a new horse that she was extremely excited about and will be training and competing in the upper levels of eventing this summer. I got to take a lesson on the mare, and while I was riding, my trainer asked me to come out some time to do gymnastics with the horse. I assumed she was asking me to come set jumps for her while she rode, so I said, “Of course I’ll come and set jumps for you.” Then she corrected me and said she would rather me ride so she could set the jumps just how she wanted. I was so excited that she trusted me enough to school the horse through more difficult grid work instead of doing it herself! What a vote of confidence!
Hannah Bennett, Indiana

I was looking at buying a dressage horse a few years ago, but I didn’t have much of a dressage seat developed yet. So when I got on this big-moving and very sensitive 6-year-old I was just asking for trouble. I lost both my stirrups during the canter and ended up flying off in one direction while the horse went the other. After I got an ice pack on my hip, I asked if I could get back on and go the other direction. The owner said she had never had someone look at a horse, fall off it and then still want to buy it. When I think about that, it just reminds me that riding isn’t just how much you know, but also how much guts you got.
Isabelle LaCosse, Minnesota

The trainer I had growing up once told me, “You stick to a horse like a fly to fly paper!” She liked to put me on the horses who had a habit of bucking people off, but apparently that improved my ability to hold on! And once some of those horses realized they wouldn’t get away with putting their rider on the ground, I had some amazing rides!
Chelsea Camp, New York

After a winning jumper round, a spectator told me “You looked truly joyful out there!” I had retired my mare after a badly torn suspensory and a diagnosis of cutaneous lymphoma with limited time to live. After making an unexpected recovery (and currently going on four years over the time frame she was given to live), I’ve truly treasured all 15 years I’ve been blessed to have her in my life. She’s the horse of a lifetime, and I am thankful she’s still kicking, and has a blast every time I get on her!
Danielle Curtis, Connecticut

From my jumping trainer, Denny Emerson: “You ride very professionally.”
Andrea Monsarrat Waldo, Vermont

I attended a clinic with Linda Allen. After working through several exercises, we progressed to jumping the whole course she had designed. My horse, Armani, and I were the first to go and had such a great time. When we finished, Ms. Allen looked at us for a few seconds and said, “I can’t add anything to that. That was perfect. That was the winning round. Now you have to work on being that relaxed and consistent.” I have a tape of that clinic that I watch on a regular basis so that I can relive the feel of that ride.
Jessica Cebulla, North Carolina

The best compliment I ever received is that horses just like me. My trainer said that I just have this quality that makes any horse that I ride love me.
Logan Mumford, Virginia

My all-time favorite compliment was from a complete stranger. I was schooling my horse at HITS Ocala next to one of the show rings. I was 9 years old, and my leg didn’t even reach halfway down my horse’s barrel. A few girls from my barn were showing, and they said a girl came out of the ring after an almost perfect round and asked her mom what she thought. Her mom said, “Sorry. I didn’t see it. I was watching the little girl on the big white horse.” That little girl was me.
Sarah Nicole Morris, Florida

IHSA Nationals: A Veteran Shares Her Behind-the-Scenes' Perspective
Emma Cooper at IHSA Nationals 2024
IHSA Nationals 2024: A Student Athlete's Inside View
Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus
Nicholson and Vermiculus Celebrate Fifth-Place Finish at 2024 Kentucky Three-Day CCI5*
Klugman and Bronte Beach
Klugman and Bronte Beach Breeze into Five-Star Status