I believe that every rider or equestrian can be put into one of two categories. I know, a pretty big generalization! However, from working with thousands of riders, I have yet to meet someone who does not fall into one or the other.
Knowing which category you fall into will help you to get clear on what your ‘next step’ is when it comes to developing your skills as a rider. I have named the two different types of riders as being either:-
You see it all comes down to your focus when you’re in the saddle. You can easily figure out which of the above you are by noticing where you are focusing your attention in the saddle for the majority of each ride. Is the focus on you or is it on your horse?
Riders who are focusing on themselves and what they are doing fall into the first category. I call them passengers. You are a passenger if you find yourself thinking about your heels or your hands the majority of the time while riding.
‘Are my heels down?’. ‘Why can’t I sit up straight?!’ ‘How can I keep my thumbs on top?!’ are just a few examples of thoughts that may be flying through your mind if you are a passenger in the saddle.
When you’re a passenger, your predominant thoughts will be around ‘what am I doing and how can I make myself continue to do that’.
The Passenger’s Horse
Horses that are being ridden by passengers are, for the most part, just ‘carrying on’. They are not being asked too many questions, other than to go or stop. Slow down, speed up and turn. The rest of the time they are left to their own devices.
These types of horses allow you the space you need to really focus on you and what you are doing in the saddle.
They are dependable, reliable and an absolutely essential part of the ‘horse riding journey’ for all riders. By them just ‘carrying on’, you get to begin working on the parts that you ‘need’ to put on autopilot when it comes to your riding.
Passenger’s hosers are not really ‘working’ when they are being ridden. They are rather doing what they do so that you have this vitally important opportunity to focus on you in the saddle.
By giving you this space, you can build more of your aids and put more things on autopilot. You are building to eventually having real ‘feel’ in the saddle.
What are Passengers Working On?
Passengers are working on the basics when they are in the saddle. Their position is a big part of their focus and requires effort in order to remain consistent and effective. They are also working on their aids. Usually the more obvious aids.
If you are a passenger, you are learning the basic building blocks that will begin to develop your skills as a rider.
How your horse is going is not really important. You just want him to ‘go’ when you ask him to and to stop or slow down when you ask him to. You’re not too concerned about how well he is going and how well he is using himself in each gait. Right now, the fact that you can get him into a trot and he stays there is all that really matters 🙂
And this is exactly what you need right now in your riding journey. All riders have been here at one point or another and I would strongly suggest remaining here until you feel comfortable and confident enough to begin shifting your focus.
The second group of riders is those that I refer to as ‘Influencers’. These riders are spending the majority of their time in the saddle focusing on their horse and how their horse is going. In order to do this, they obviously have to pay attention to their own actions and aids.
However, it is all about the cause and effect their aids have over their horse and their horse’s way of going.
If you are an ‘influencer’, you have already put a lot of the basics on autopilot in your riding. You no longer have to think about your heels being down, or your lower leg shooting forward or backward. Your position is consistent for the most part and you move with the horse with ease.
At this stage in your riding, a lot of the application of your aids is like performing experiments. You do things in order to see if it has an effect on the horse and if that effect can be made more positive by tweaking things.
The Influencer’s Horse
Your horse can be anywhere on the training scale, it doesn’t really matter to you. What matters is that you are working together to develop and grow in your riding and training. Many influencers find themselves with younger or green horses. Horses that they have committed to ‘brining on’ and developing.
Many influencers also ride more experienced horses. In this case, both horse and rider are working together to reach the next level on their riding journey, be that competitively or just in their relationship together.
Whichever level your horse is at, when you are an influencer you predominant focus is on being able to develop your horse’s natural skills and talents each time you ride.
You are committed to being a positive influence on your horse’s way of going. Sometimes you may have to revisit the basics, but you realize that this is a natural and normal part of the riding journey.
Creating a Plan for Your Riding
I really feel that the first part of creating a plan for you and your riding is figuring out which type of rider you are. Are you an influencer or are you a passenger. This will then allow you to work on exercises that will help you get results.
Asking a passenger to help develop their horse’s overall straightness will be frustrating and even dangerous for both horse and rider. Asking an influencer to focus on their heels or legs will result in equal frustration for that rider, resulting in the horse experiencing the same.
Knowing which type of rider you are will also help you to make better decisions around the type of horse you are working with and riding.
The Type of Rider You Are Matters to Your Horse!
One of the more common reasons for riders to reach and then remain stuck on a plateau in their riding progress is due to riding the wrong horse. It is frustrating for both horse and rider when this happens. It is also essential that the riders figure this out and make necessary changes!
Some horses are just not suitable for ‘Passenger’ riders. They often don’t have the confidence to ‘stay going’. They become worried and anxious if the rider bumps about and becomes unbalanced. Sometimes, they can even be a little naughty or become frustrated with such a rider and they openly let their feelings be known!
The same applies when we are looking at suitable horses for ‘Influencers’ in the saddle. Horses, just like us, have their likes and dislikes. They have areas they are talented in and other areas where they just don’t enjoy or excel at. Meaning that no matter how much the rider wants to develop them, they just won’t or can’t reach the riders expectations.
Part of being a ‘team leader’ for you and your horse is being open to the fact that you never were or no longer are a good match for each other.
So, Which Type of Rider Are You?
Knowing which type of rider you are will help you to become really clear on what your next steps are in your riding journey. You will know where to focus your efforts and it will help you to feel more comfortable with where you are at that exact moment.
Knowing which type of rider you are will also allow you to make any changes to remove things that have possibly been keeping you stuck.
Remember, hard decisions are just that; hard! But often they are essential if you and your horse are to be happy and begin enjoying riding again.
Other episodes & resources to help you with your riding:-
- Free Map for Progress in Your Riding HERE
- Equestrian Fitness Challenge
- Daily Strides Podcast
- Free group for equestrians focusing on mindset and fitness
- Free group for equestrians focusing on OTTBs and riding without a trainer
- Lunging for Riding Digital Course