Riding & Acting; the Connection

Riding & Acting; the Connection

Riding and Acting; the Connection

Have you ever considered how, in order to be a good rider, you must be a good actor? Don’t worry too much if you haven’t, you’re not alone… Many riders fail to see the connection between these two things.

As a rider, you will see a marked difference in your abilities in the saddle, especially when under pressure, if you work on your acting skills in the saddle.

In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I am going to give you a few ideas on how you can begin developing your acting skills, beginning right now…

What has Acting to Do with Riding Horses?!

Tell me, when was the last time that your horse reacted to something in a way you did not expect? Maybe he spooked. Or perhaps he stumbled. He possibly was simply full of the joys of life…

Whatever the reason, when our horses act in a way we don’t expect, it can throw us off our concentration and efforts. It derails us a little… For many riders this leads to becoming ‘stuck’ and a loss of confidence in abilities.

However, have you ever considered that your horse doesn’t know that you actually haven’t a cooking clue whats going on; or how things are going to turn out?!

The key is acting well enough to keep the ball rolling. Keep the conversation going. Which will result in both you and your horse moving forwards. Past the ‘thing’ that had all the potential for both of you to become ‘stuck’.

Knowing What You Want…

Have you ever noticed how it is often difficult to get clear on what you really want. That is, until you are presented with what you definitely don’t want! I see this happen to riders all the time. Something happens that they become almost crippled by it. The thing that they don’t want.

“How does ‘Insert Other Riders Name Here’ do this? How do they manage to just ride out of / through / over this?”

These feelings are often coupled with the realisation that your horse has gained the ‘upper hand’. Your horse now knows the real truth; you really haven’t a clue what you’re supposed to be doing most of the time! You’re essentially winging it and hoping he doesn’t notice.

Which is great until it’s not. Until he notices that, for whatever reason, you are unable to ride out of / through or over this particular one…

How Is Your Horse Feeling Right Now?

Now, I personally believe that far from your horse wanting to gain this hypothetical upper hand, he may just be as confused as you are. Horses, epsecially if they are more green or young, look to their rider for guidance.

When the rider falls to pieces, well it doesn’t really inspire confidence in their leadership abilities. It often makes the horse question things. Is this safe? Should I rather not get out of here A.S.A.P?!

It is really important to remember that, whether you like it or not, you are in a position of leadership when it comes to your relationship with your horse.

It is okay to admit that things have veered a little from the plan. However it is not okay to fall to pieces when your leadership skills are needed most. Especially when this is what you really feel like doing!

It’s All About ‘Pretending’

Sure, you might not have a clue how to handle what has happened; but as a leader you need to ‘pretend’ that you do. In fact, you need to convince your horse that you not only are prepared for this, but have the perfect plan to work through or around it as well.

There is a moment of initial discomfort. If you can have the self awareness to recognise this; and then act accordingly, you can turn the whole situation around.

The initial discomfort is the sign that you are moving away from what you want, into the ‘I definitely don’t want this’ territory.

Therefore, by recognising the discomfort and then using it to remind you to refocus on what you do want, your desired outcome, you can move both yourself and your horse through the challenge.

Finding Role Models for Your Riding

We have all heard about ‘faking it until you make it’. I personally believe that this is one of those situations that this can actually work for you and your horse.

The key is to find role models that you can try to emulate in your riding.

When I began to do this, I approached the situation all wrong. I was looking for that ‘one person’. One rider who I could try to channel in all sorts of different situations. That ‘perfect person’ doesn’t exist.

Rather look for elements of what you like in different riders. Pick and choose. Mix and match…

Reverse Engineering What You Want…

The biggest challenge I find riders have when it comes to this is finding potentially suitable riders to ‘model’ when the going gets tough. But rather than letting a lack of talent stop you in your tracks, use it to pin-point what you really don’t like.

By watching others and using their experiences to decide you on what you don’t like, you can begin curating a list of methods that you do like.

If you don’t like how someone is doing something, it means that there is actually another way you prefer. The key is to take note of what you do like and begin ‘fleshing it out’ a little…

Looking for Specific Situations

I find one of the best places to notice different ways of dealing with ‘sticky’ situations is to watch riders in the warm up or practice arenas. Watching what goes on in there, and how people deal with things, is often an education in and of itself!

I also strongly recommend watching people schooling their horses or having lessons / sessions with their trainer or coach. You want to actively begin looking for learning opportunities; and growth is usually in those ‘tougher’ moments!

The key is that once you begin to recognise a potential learning moment, you pay attention to the details.

It’s all well and good to say that a rider rode well. That they got themselves and the horse out the other side. But the gold lies in noticing what they did to make that happen…

Noticing and then identifying how you could do a similar thing if the situation presented itself…

“What Would _____ Do In This Situation?”

Over time you will begin to build a bank of ways that have worked for riders you respect to overcome challenges. You will be able to pick and choose as you need. You can ‘tweak’ as you go…

Horse riding has this great blend of rider, horse and circumstance. All three are rarely, if ever, the same. Meaning you must adjust and adapt.

But by paying attention and preparing in advance, you will find that when one of those moments occurs, you have the tools to overcome it. Simply ask yourself “What would _____ do in this situation?”. Then, just do it. Do whatever that person would do. Act as though you are that person…

Moving Forward with Your Riding

Will this work first time out? Well, let’s be honest. It probably won’t go exactly to the plan you want. That will take practice. But it is a starting place. As you begin working through situations that would have initially halted you in your tracks, your confidence will grow.

As your confidence in your abilities grows, you will find yourself ‘acting’ less and less.

You will become the rider that others will want to ‘act’ like in a difficult situation.

Happy Riding


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