Planning your riding sessions for progress – 10 suggestions to try

GREY HORSE HEADDo you sometimes wonder about the fact that you’ve been riding/having lessons for years but you seem to feel and see no improvement in your skills? If so, you might find the below post helpful 🙂

I am a very goal oriented person and so are many ambitious riders out there whether the end aim is to get to Olympics, scoring personal best in an unaffiliated dressage test, mastering sitting trot in medium trot, jumping a winning round over 95cm, improving feel for horse’s movement so all transitions are crisp and harmonious, having a clear XC run in local horse trials or gaining trust and building relationship with a horse. Being goal oriented can simply mean that you don’t like floating around without purpose.

By definition, to train means to change.

Eventually and ideally – for the better-but sometimes at early stages of change things often get chaotic and feel worse. That’s why, the first thing I am prepared for when striving for progress is that things will go messy, they will feel like hard work and they will feel difficult. If they don’t, then I know I am in a cosy, comfortable place at which nothing is changing i.e. nothing is improving.

If I go for a lesson to progress myself I expect to feel a little out of comfort zone, definitely struggling with some aspects and feeling rubbish at times! I expect to be mentally and physically challenged and in my case, I usually have the best sessions over few days after the lesson when I can quietly work out all the changes that have been made.

So let’s say, you don’t have regular lessons and you are unsure how to progress. Maybe you always feel that you have same problems every day you school. Here are a few things I would suggest doing regularly: 

1. Video your ride at least every two weeks.

2. Reflect on your ride every time. Feel free to use this reflection notes worksheet as an example: Aspire Equestrian – After Training Reflection Notes

SONY DSC3. Research your issue/training problem/seat problem once a month. Google is your friend here but be selective and critical when reading information online. Check the source well. Find 2-3 new exercises each month to try and give them a go. Reflect on their suitability as per No 2.

4. Find enjoyment in bad moments because it means something is changing. 

5. Invest in a physio session for yourself…so you can learn more about how your particular posture functions and how to improve your suppleness, flexibility, core strength and awareness of movement.

6. Always spend 10 min (for example while grooming) visualising the session, not just the good moments but also difficult moments. Visualise what will you do if you get stuck or bored or not sure what to do next and in your vision, decide what you will do.

7. Put your learning hat on every time you get on – think: what can I learn from my horse today. When you finish, try to come up with the answer and think what changes might be useful to make in your next session.

8. If you procrastinate in the arena a lot, keep your schooling sessions short – 20min + 10/15min walk warm up/cool down. Pick 2 things to work on. Divide the 25min into 4 intervals.

1 – warm up/easy version: first exercise

2 – proper work on first exercise

3 – warm up/easy version: 2nd exercise

4 – proper work on 2nd exercise

9. Once a week or as and when you need it, find something that inspires you to ride better: a film, a song, a short video, article, book. Spend a moment with that very thing 🙂

10. Be sure of why you want to progress, repeat that why to yourself before every ride, be honest and work your socks off to get there!

Feel free to add your own suggestion in the comments!


5 thoughts on “Planning your riding sessions for progress – 10 suggestions to try

  1. This! I especially like number 8. And I’m sure many with me… I’m going to take that one to hart for awhile. Time management, focus, and improvement all wrapped up in one!

  2. 6 is a great idea. I used to religiously write notes but have got out of the habit lately when my horse was off and on work. so will start again. The different questions in your notes are really good

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