What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Recognise that new can often mean uncomfortable
- Think differently about ‘upgrading’ your riding
- Begin to make room for improvement
- Have appreciation for what has got you this far in your riding
Have you ever noticed how, when you begin working on improving something, things can feel a little like they are falling apart initially. Getting worse rather than better! You become all worried that you have ‘broken’ something which, perhaps wasn’t exactly as you wanted it to be, but it worked!
This is often the feelings that come up for riders when they begin refining their skills and aids in the saddle. It feels like they are actually going backwards rather than making the progress they want in their riding.
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast we are going to find out why this happens and what you can do to actually let this benefit you and move you forward in your riding.
Recognise that New Often Means ‘Uncomfortable’
I know, it is not what you want to hear, but it is the truth. Often, when we are working on improving something, we have to leave our comfort zone. And your brain, which is merely trying to protect you, begins sounding alarm bells and firing off its equivalent of ‘flares’ in order to try to get your attention to return to that lovely, safe, comfort zone!
The thing to keep in mind is that ‘comfortable’ is not always best…
Continuing to do things the way you have always done it will keep you inside of your comfort zone; but it will also ensure that you never make any real progress in your riding.
Being able to recognise that your feelings of anxiety or worry about things going backwards are perfectly normal. They are a necessary part of beginning to move things forward in your riding.
It’s a little like tidying a room. Often it has to become messier and more ‘untidy’ before it actually begins to come together and improve. This is because some of the things in the room, while they once were useful, are no longer that way and must be removed to make room for what is needed right now in your life.
Upgrading The Way You Do Things
Horse riding is a little like this. Some of the things which possibly served you well up to this point, now need to be ‘replaced’ with things that are actually going to help you moving forwards.
An example of this is the crest release when jumping. It works well when you are learning to jump. It allows you to feel secure and it gives you an actual physical ‘touch point’ if you do lose your balance.
However, as your riding begins to evolve and as you begin to refine your jumping, things have to change. Your trusty up until now crest release will eventually be replaced by the automatic release.
This can often leave riders feeling a little ‘unbalanced’ initially. Their brain is literally screaming at them to ‘hold the mane’. Overriding that impulse is key to integrating this new way into the day-to-day riding and jumping.
Another example of how you will ‘upgrade’ your riding can often be seen by how riders ‘stop or slow’ their horses. When we learn to ride initially, we are often told that the brakes are the reins. Apply pressure and the horse will slow down or stop.
However, as we refine our aids in the saddle, we begin to learn how our seat can actually communicate the same request to our horse, in a nicer and more ‘secret’ way. Again, it can initially feel like we are losing control. Our brains are telling us to just pull the reins and stop the horse! But, but persisting through the initially discomfort, we soon learn that the seat is indeed an effective aid when communicating with our horse.
Making Room for Improvement
I really think that riding is mindset first, physical abilities second. How you think about something has the power to influence your results. I would even go so far as to say that, in some cases, it is the cause of your results.
Recognising that in order to improve, you will have to let go of certain ways of thinking and ways of doing things will free you up to learning new things.
If you don’t understand why you should do something, research it. Find out why. Ask questions. Find out why this ‘new’ way is more effective. Even if it doesn’t feel that way initially.
Keep in mind that, just because you have made one change or upgrade, doesn’t mean that you will never revisit or upgrade this again. Horse riding, by its very nature, is a constant work in progress. You are always improving or refining how you do things, so that you can have more clear communication with your horse. If you are not, you are doing both yourself and your horse an injustice.
What Got You Here Often Won’t Get You There
Often, in order to get to the next level, you have to change tactics a little. Where you are now is not the same as where you want to go to in your riding. So it makes sense that you are going to have to do things a little differently in order to get to this ‘new’ place.
Does this mean how you have been doing things is ‘wrong’ or ‘useless’? No, not at all. They got you to where you are now. However, at each plateau in our riding, something has to change in order for us to grow and continue on with our journey as a rider.
This comes back to becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Letting go of things, even how we do things, can often be difficult.
We almost feel like we are being unfaithful to the things which have served us well up to this point in our riding.
These feelings of guilt can even cross over to the trainer or instructor who initially recommended the thing you are now ‘letting go of’ or changing.
Remember, that person and that suggestion served you where you were at that exact moment in your journey. You’re not there anymore.
Things have changed. So the tools you need in order to get to the next part of your journey will also, most often, have to change.
Appreciating the Tools That Have Served You
I regularly hear riders complain or moan about trainers or instructors who told them something which, where they are right now, no longer serves them. I really think that this is a short-sighted and, quite frankly unfair, judgement to be made by the rider.
That very thing or suggestion, while it might no longer be the correct advice for where they are now, is what moved them along on their journey.
Many riders only reach out to a professional for help as a last resort. Often after they have been ‘stuck’ at a certain point for a long time. Sometimes drastic action is needed to get them unstuck! Riding instructors and trainers are not fortune tellers… They cannot see where you will be 6 months from now.
Often they are just working on getting you to the next level. And how will you know you have reached the next level? Well, you know because you have to now upgrade your skills and tools.
You will have to think about things and approach things differently again. Always keep in mind that what is working right now, at this new level, will possibly also become something you have to replace at a later stage as well.
Horse Riding is a Never Ending Journey
I know, it sounds so cliché! But it is true. In order for you to really improve as a rider, it is worth remembering this as you move forwards in your riding.
If you want to reach a new level, new skills will be required of you and your horse. Rather than feeling discomfort and anxious about this, approach it with a sense of excitement and curiosity.
That is the conversation and it is, after all, why we devote so much time to an activity that we never really reach any specific ‘end point’.
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