So how do you become a ‘better’ rider? What should you be focusing on in order to make progress regarding your communication skills in the saddle? I believe there are three specific areas that, if you work on, you can really begin to see a difference in your riding.
There are a lot of areas in riding that you can’t control. Your horse’s mood or attitude is a good example. In fact, one of the reasons riders stop making progress is that they focus their attention on the things they can’t control, rather than what they can.
The simple truth is that by working on these three core pieces that you can actually control, you can have a much greater positive influence over the things that you cannot.
You can never really control your horse. You can simply influence him… So with that out of the way, let’s get into those three things that I suggest you begin working on today.
1 . Your Physical Abilities & Fitness Level
I am going to ask that, rather than flicking away from this blog post, you hear me out on this. I know, it seems too simple. So simple, in fact, that we can actually fail to see how important it actually is. And, trust me, it is important!
How fit you are will dictate how well you can control your body while in the saddle. How well you control your body will dictate how clear you are when applying your aids. This decides if your horse understands or not…
I see time and again the hours riders dedicate to creating and implementing fitness and conditioning programs for their horses. Hours spent planning every little detail of the week. What food their horse is going to eat. How many calories. How long they get to socialize. And planning their rest time as well. This is great; don’t get me wrong. However, this is only 50% of the team.
However you want to look at it, you cannot get away from the fact that you make up the other 50% of the team. Failing to ‘condition’ and ‘increase fitness levels’ for yourself is letting your horse down.
Fitness and Suppleness
There are a few different elements when it comes to your personal fitness. How fit you are as a rider is a big one. A few simple ‘tests’ can help you to get a clearer picture of just how ‘riding fit’ you are. In fact, in the 2020 Equestrian Fitness Challenge, I will be helping you measure your riding fitness levels. But being Riding Fit is not the only way you can improve your physical efforts while riding.
I am a big believer in ‘cross-training’. Doing a few other types of exercise, out of the saddle, that will compliment your efforts while in the saddle.
However, like all things there can be a downside to becoming too fit elsewhere. I have noticed that runners, for example, often struggle with suppleness through their lower backs. Which affects their seat and how they are influencing their horse using their seat.
Now, obviously this does not apply to every single rider who also runs. However, it is just something to be aware of. Suppleness is often seen as something only for horses. It is equally as important for the rider as well.
The energy that moves through the horse, must also move through the rider. Suppleness is the measure of how easily this energy can move.
Increasing Your Fitness Will…
Improve your life! And of course, help you to become a more skilful and responsive rider as well. You will find that your coordination will improve. This, of course, helps with your aids, which is how we communicate with our horse.
Your balance will begin to improve, often dramatically. This is great for staying on initially. However, later it also helps when you are working on improving your horse. Your balance will help your horse to remain balanced.
Your energy levels will increase. How many times have you been riding and find that before you have even finished warming up, your legs are feeling heavy? You’re out of breath. Or you simply cannot respond appropriately to those ‘critical’ situations or moments.
How many times have you missed out on a great opportunity to just enjoy the canter because you were trying to catch your breath?!
2 . Accepting Responsibility
This is the one that so many riders seem to struggle with. Looking for things to blame for perceived shortcomings. The irony is that if they could just accept the responsibility, they could begin to change the outcome! Responsibility for your own actions. Your thoughts and your words.
Also, accepting the responsibility that the progress you are making is probably being heavily influenced by how you are showing up, in and out of the saddle, for your horse…
As a rider, you have a certain unique ‘style’ of riding. That ‘style’ is how you actually teach or train your horse to respond to you. If you are intentional about it, it will work for you. If not, it can potentially work against you and your overall goals for your riding. Taking responsibility for your own unique style is essential if you are to become a better rider.
When you are responsible for something, you are then able to make tweaks or changes that will result in a different outcome. Actively look at ways you can take responsibility for your riding. It has the potential to change everything!
3 . Your Mindset
This is how you are showing up and how you think about things. Your beliefs and how you ‘do you’. Your mindset can be easily identified through your stories. Think about it; if I was to ask you why you are doing something a particular way, you will probably respond by telling me a story to explain why.
What is great to note here, is that we actually create our own stories. This is usually to either make us or someone else, feel a certain way.
It could be to feel less responsible for our own perceived shortcomings. To make someone feel pity for us. Or to make us feel validated. Maybe to make us feel happy, sad, successful, busy, stressed, energized, anxious… So many feelings! The important thing is to identify the ‘feeling’ you’re going for and then ask yourself why you’re going for it.
Your mind will look for ways to validate your beliefs. A great example of this is the rider who ‘believes’ that they are going to fall off… Each time they think it or say it, their body aligns more and more with that belief.
When I’m in the arena with a rider like that, I can see the physical adjustments the body makes, in order to ‘make it happen’. Of course, then the rider does indeed fall off, their first words are usually ‘I knew this was going to happen’… Ah, congratulations, you have proved yourself right, yet again!
Working on Improving You in Your Riding
I realize that the three topics I covered above seems so simple. However, doing the work will not always be easy. It will take time and diligence in order to successfully begin rewiring your body and mind in order to change how you think, feel and act in the saddle.
It is ‘do-able’. Very much so. But it will require a commitment from you in order to begin making it happen.
How soon will you see any changes? Immediately. Changing how you think, will change how you feel. This will change how you act. When you begin showing up differently, your horse will begin to respond differently.
It is as simple as that ;)
Other resources to help you with this topic:-
- Free Equestrian Fitness Challenge
- How Are You Showing Up for Your Horse
- The Direct Relationship Between Your Fitness & Your Riding
- Join the free Facebook group HERE
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- Daily Strides Podcast on Google Play
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio
- Join Daily Strides Premium