Riding might be an art and science married together which makes it seemingly a bottomless well of possibilities but let’s try to short list a few things an average ambitious rider can do to better their skills month after month instead of stagnating in one murky pond 😉
There is no particular order here:
1) DO the Dreaming and the Wishing
For every dreamy, wishful thought, have 10 action thoughts. The power of dreams lies in acting upon them. Imagine yourself doing things very well. Then make a detailed plan of action for each of those things. Work backwards from the imagined outcome and educate yourself on time scales for each step. However, don’t be scared or put off by the amount of time it might all take. Working on your dreams or goals can be a dream process in itself 🙂
2) Find an instructor whose values line up with yours
Search for the best one for your current situation and best one you can afford. Why the same values? Because if you line up those, you will often be happy with the methods used too.
I hear some of you saying, I don’t need an instructor to do well, have you not seen International Velvet? Ok, let’s look at a few facts:
Even to play Sarah Brown, Tatum O’Neal went through an intensive training prior the movie with Marcia Williams, a member of USEF National Show Jumping Hall of Fame (oh and later awarded the USEF Living Legend Award). “During production in England, four British and American Olympic medallists also worked with Tatum”*. Apparently, she showed a lot of talent and could have gone on to great things if she wanted to take up riding professionally. Aaaand, it’s Ginny Leng riding in the more “riding” scenes…
I am not saying there are no riders out there with exceptional body awareness, horse sense, discipline, commitment and passion (aka talent) so if you are one of those, great. Maybe you can skip on point no 2 and just watch as many lessons as you can instead. But if you are part of an average riding crowd (and no shame in that, I consider myself an average rider too) and you want to better yourself step by step, look out for trainers who can guide you, who never stop learning and who genuinely want you to ride better (not just for your horse to go better).
3) Live in a moment but ask what’s around the corner
Do your best to do the best you can in your lessons but ask questions…you want to know if your instructor has any sort of plan for your learning (if you ride with them regularly that is). What skill is leading to what outcome. What’s the plan to work on this or that. You want your instructor to have an idea for you (and for your horse), an individual plan of action for your particular riding adventures (and/or your horse’s development).
4) Push yourself before you push your horse
Like in every sport, we need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones to progress and that includes the horses too. It’s never easy to go through that push so if you tend to get negatively emotionally involved with your horse’s difficulties, put yourself through similar experience first…Ask around and find a trainer who is impatient, easily frustrated with his/her pupil and takes your physical inability to follow his/her instructions personally. Go for someone who gets easily annoyed when your struggle when you try and fail. You want to truly experience that feel of emotionally draining training that’s on the verge of bullying. Then, next time when you are tempted to do the same to your horse, think how effective it was…
If you are planning to push your horse to their limits in terms of physical performance, get yourself a session with a positive personal trainer who will make you work like no tomorrow. Be it running, cycling, weight lifting or extreme yoga – try out the total body workout. Make some notes. Adjust your horse training accordingly…
5) Demand only what you can keep up with
Being a good rider means being in harmony with your horse, supporting them with your own body action and matching their effort. Be prepared to do the work with your horse. If they need to be more supple, work on your own suppleness too, if they need to be stronger through their abdominal muscles, get on that workout too, if they need to be mentally calmer, you might need too…You know this saying “show me your horse I will tell you who you are”?
It’s supposed to be a very quick guide so I will stop here 🙂 What would you add to this list if we were to make it into a Full Guide? Add your own suggestions 🙂