Understanding ‘Establishing’ and ‘Maintaining’ in Your Riding

Understanding ‘Establishing’ and ‘Maintaining’ in Your Riding

Understanding ‘Establishing’ and ‘Maintaining’ in Your Riding

Understanding Establishing and Maintaining in Your Riding

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Your greatest responsibility as a rider
  • How it all begins on the ground
  • The number 1 mistake riders make
  • Working it in to each and every exercise and movement

Isn’t it strange how as riders we expect things to be push button when it comes to our riding?  We expect to be able to jump in the saddle, and that everything is just going to work out.  Then we get so disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

Today I am going to give you the plan, so you can begin to make that happen every time you get into the saddle.

Your Greatest Responsibility as a Rider

Do you, like a lot of riders, tend to forget that there is a responsibility on your part to establish something first and foremost in your riding?  Perfect harmony and connection often isn’t something that just happens.  It is our job, as team leaders, to work at establishing it.

Yes, over time it becomes easier and easier; quicker to establish.  Maybe later you will even get to the point where it does turn into a push button situation.  But initially it is not going to be that.  I will require your focus and attention to establishing a certain way of going in your rides.

But the challenge does not end there; this is a ‘two part’ series.  Once you have successfully established this harmony, this contact, this connection; it then has to be maintained. 

Part of maintaining is first, making sure that everything is going as it should be, and secondly noticing when you need to go back to the establishing phase again.  It is a little like breaking something down, in order to then build it back up again.  Building it back to exactly what you want each time.

Again, this is something that over time will become almost like a ‘rinse and repeat’.  It becomes easier, it becomes quicker, it becomes a lot more ‘yes, you can sit back and allow it to happen’.  But not when we are first starting out.

Why It All Begins on the Ground

Ground work, I believe, really and truly starts when you are fetching your horse from the paddock or in the stable with your horse. Establishing and maintaining starts right there, during those first initial interactions each day.

Firstly, it establishes boundaries.   It establishes the way that your relationship is going to be going forward for that day.  You can establish your rhythm here.  You can establish relaxation. You can establish the intention for whatever it is that the ride is going to be.  Focus on what you are doing during this time.  The ground work element is where it all begins.

A lot of riders might be establishing certain rhythms on the ground, but they fail to maintain them throughout the process.   So many problems in the saddle can be traced back to this lack of establishing and maintaining on the ground.  You can find out more about groundwork HERE

So, if you are feeling that there is some disconnect going on with you and your horse in the saddle, look to your ground work first.  Look at the basics.  You, on the ground, working with your horse.  What is the conversation that is happening?

The Number 1 Mistake Riders Make?

They fail to set and follow through on their intention for each ride.  Let’s say, for example, that you want to establish and maintain a good quality working trot.  A lot of riders will get on and expect the push button solution.  They climb into the saddle, without spending any time being intentional when on the ground.

I suggest that you begin setting that intention on the ground.  The rhythm, the relaxation and the energy required for a good quality, forward going, working trot.  Then carry that intention across into your warm up.  The same principles.  Then bring the same intention with you as you begin to work through your actual schooling session with your horse.

Your intention is all the time building.  It is layering.  It is becoming part of every aspect of your ride for that day.

Coupling Your Intention with Actual Energy

One of the essential elements when establishing anything is having energy present.  Energy or action.  Forwardness.  There simply must be forwardness there in order for anything to happen in your riding.

A big part of establishing, is that you are putting energy into the funnel, or channel that is you and your horse going forward.  There must be energy present in order to have anything to maintain. 

That is where I would begin with the establishing; make sure your horse is moving forward.  That he is thinking forward; and that you are thinking forward.  You are all the time bringing it back to your intention for that day, and then moving your horse along into that.

Using the example again of establishing and maintaining a good quality working trot.  Let’s say you have established a good quality trot.  Many riders then make the mistake of thinking that they can just then just sit there and the horse can, well, just ‘continue’.  In an ideal world, yes perhaps that will happen.

However for most riders this is not going to happen, because unless your horse is extremely developed mentally, physically and emotionally, he is not going to be able to continue carrying himself in that. 

He may lose rhythm or tempo.  It could be that there is no longer any energy being put into the funnel.  Remember, every step your horse takes, he is dissipating some of that energy.  So, the energy needs to be continuously replenished.

Maintaining what You have Established

This is were maintaining comes into your riding.  Think of the banks of a canal or a river.  Ideally, the banks are maintained.   Anything that flows, electricity, water etc., needs to have the channel it flows through maintained.

Your job as the rider is to maintain the channel or funnel.  This allows you to best direct that energy to where it needs to go.

Let’s go back to our working trot example again.  You have established this lovely, forward going, working trot.  Your job is to now maintain it.

Maintain it against what?   Oh, the normal day-to-day ‘speed wobbles’ that show up when something is moving!  The loss of balance, the loss of rhythm or tempo.  A loss of impulsion or energy.  A loss of focus or intention.  What is important is to understand that through these ‘speed wobbles’, the cycle starts again.  Rinse and repeat.

Sometimes, the re-establishing can be transitioning into a different gait.  Or it could be transitioning from going perhaps in a straight line, to riding a circle.  Remember, a transition is a change.

Change is the ‘breaking it down’ I spoke of earlier, in order to put it back together as you want it to be. 

If you notice that you can no longer maintain, and it feels like everything is beginning to fall apart, change it.  Why?  Because it is so much more difficult to try to fix that from where you are.  The maintenance becomes too high!

Rather take it all apart, change or transition.  Then from that place, being building up again.  That is the cycle of establishing and maintaining coming full circle in your riding. 

Working It In to Each and Every Exercise and Movement

Horse riding involves a lot of moving parts.  Anyone with a mechanical background will tell you that the more moving parts you have, the more maintenance it will require!

Establishing and maintaining is a cycle that must continuously be repeated in your riding.  Every time there is a transition, or you ask your horse to do something different, it starts all over again.  Even the transition itself must be established and then maintained throughout the transition.

It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?  However twenty minutes of good quality focused work will far outweigh double that time in mediocre muddling around an arena.   A little something to think about the next time you are in the saddle.

Happy Riding


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