Success has a rhythm. And, as an equestrian, I know that you know a fair bit about rhythm already. As riders, we spend a lot of our time, whether mindful or not, focusing on rhythm. It is one of the most basic principles when it comes to riding.
The ‘up downs’ in trot. Or the ‘1.2.3. Roll’ in canter. Rhythm while on the ground. And the rhythm when working through different movements. Yes, rhythm is something we literally ride by every time we are in the saddle.
So it makes good sense to begin tapping into this same principle in order to develop your skills as a rider. To make progress in your training development when it comes to your horse.
Doing ‘Hard’ Things
Now that we have established that you have a good relationship with rhythm, even if you never actually thought about it before now. I want to call out another truth when it comes to being an equestrian.
In order to improve as a rider, we have to be willing to do some ‘hard things’.
Hard, in this case, is another word for ‘uncomfortable’. The things I am talking about are ones that you have to practice in order to build your skills as a rider. Things that make you feel a little uncertain. That causes emotional discomfort. These are usually things that, if truth be told, you would rather not do because of how they make you feel.
But these things must be worked on in order to reach the next level in riding. You have to do them enough times that your mind stops seeing them as being ‘hard’. They become part of the ease and flow you experience as a rider because you have worked on them.
This is when those things actually are absorbed into your comfort zone.
Identify Your ‘Hard Things’
Having read the above, there are probably a few things that jumped into your mind already. Things that you don’t feel particularly comfortable doing, however you know that doing these things will really help you in the long run as a rider.
Your ‘hard things’ can be doing something new for you. Or they can be going backward and revisiting basics. It does not always mean ‘pushing forward’.
Your ego or mind will feel uncomfortable if you are told that the way forward is to go back. That perhaps you missed a couple of key bits and bobs on your initial few trips through the basics. Going ‘back’ can be just as ‘hard’ as going forward. Please keep that in mind when choosing your ‘hard things’.
That being said, ‘hard’ can also mean doing things you have never done before. Riding new horses. Trying new exercises. Getting out of the arena and into the field or open space to ride. Hard can be a new trainer who is going to push you further. It can be a new horse who is going to ask different questions.
Every rider will have their own version of ‘hard’. You need to take the time and use your feelings of ‘comfort versus discomfort’ to figure out your ‘hard things’.
Sandwich Your Hard Things with ‘Easy’
As I work with horses, I see over and over that there is a benefit to sprinkling the new and still uncomfortable things between what is already inside of the comfort zone for that horse. I don’t think hammering on and on with the difficult thing is the best way to achieve progress. It may result in a quick win.
However, if you are looking for long term progress, slow and steady will almost always yield better results.
Take what you have already achieved a certain level of success with and use those things to ‘bookend’ the more difficult thing you have identified as being your next step to progress. Easy, hard, easy, hard… That is the rhythm you can use in order to help you to succeed in making the presently ‘uncomfortable’ turn into the ‘comfortable.
What Makes You Feel Uncomfortable?
Recently I was speaking to a rider who we identified her ‘hard’ as being feeling uncomfortable about working with a horse who did not ‘tow the line’ when it came to her current way of riding. She had ridden this way for a long time and had success with another horse. However, this new horse was proving a real challenge. ‘Simple’ things were all of a sudden difficult. Relaxation is one of those things.
I suggested that, in order to begin making progress, she needed to ride more horses that required her to change her approach. The ‘uncomfortable’ was riding horses who were not as ‘easy’ for her.
But rather than just riding those horses; I felt that the way forward was to ‘sandwich’ those horses in between the ‘easy’ ones for her. Comfortable, uncomfortable, comfortable, uncomfortable… There is a rhythm that would help her reach the next level in her riding.
Another example is another rider I worked with recently who was literally a handbrake to her horse! She would ask for forward, but when her horse obliged, she immediately shut him down and held him back. Again, I suggested allowing for 7 or 8 strides. Then asking for steady. Allowing. Steady. Allowing. Steady.
Slowly but surely her comfort levels expanded so that ‘forward’ didn’t feel so hard for her anymore.
Accountability in Your Riding
So now that you have potentially identified those ‘hard’ things for you in your riding, it all becomes about actually taking action. Doing what you said you were going to do. This can be the sticking point for so many riders.
However, in order to create the rhythm, you must be moving forwards. Taking action.
When you are building in accountability to your riding, the first thing to consider is how accountable you are to yourself. Can you hold yourself accountable? Or do you need some outside accountability? Being honest about this will allow you to begin finding solutions that suit you. I, personally, for the most part, work better with outside accountability. If there is a specific person following up with me, asking if I did the ‘thing’, that pushes me to get it done.
Then you need to plan how you would like the rhythm to be or to look like. Maybe it is working on the transition into canter 5 times every ride. These 5 times will be sprinkled throughout your ride, rather than all being lumped together.
What is important is at the end of each ride, you know that you practiced that movement 5 times. Couple this with four rides a week and now you will have worked on the thing that you find ‘hard’ 20 times over the course of that week, without it ever becoming overwhelming.
Apply this technique to whatever it is you have identified as being the ‘hard things’ you need to work on in your riding.
Rhythm Helps Reestablish Rhythm
Imagine you are on your horse, trotting. It is a good trot, you’re moving forward. There is a definite rhythm present. Now, imagine that you suddenly lose your balance and ‘fall back’ into the saddle. You get that unpleasant ‘double bounce’. What happens next?
Well, if you had already established a good rhythm before the misstep, you will simply allow that rhythm to be the catalyst to getting you back on track.
Rhythm has momentum. And momentum will help when the ‘whoops’ happens. And those things will happen. That is how we learn. However, if you have already created the rhythm, it will in and of itself, help you to not only get back on track but also stay going.
This is why I believe that success has a rhythm. And this is how I feel you can begin tapping into this for you in your riding.