Have you ever considered that, if something is not ‘working’ in your riding, the reason might just be a lack of forward? We spend a lot of our focus on making sure we have established relaxation and rhythm. Yet, working forward is actually essential for either of those two to be present and working for you in your riding.
Here are 4 simple actions you can take every time you ride to help you begin to both establish and maintain forward in your riding.
Firstly, What Is Forward?
Forward is when you and your horse are going somewhere with a sense of purpose. It is the opposite of going nowhere slowly! It is the energy, the intention, and the momentum that must be present in order for anything else to work.
You must think forward. You must feel confident moving forward and you must then take action on the forward. It is mental, emotional, and physical.
I believe that forward must be present and established before relaxation and rhythm. And yet, forward is not rushing and racing. It is not frantic or chaotic. Nor is it excessive tension. It is mental, emotional, and physical.
1 . Look Where You Want To Go
Sage wisdom! And yet, when the going gets rough, so many riders forget all about this one simple action that can help them move through and past the challenge. When you look where you want to go, it helps you to continue to take action to get there.
When you ride today, notice how often catch yourself staring at your hands or your horse’s head/neck.
This is something I notice time and again when working with riders in the arena. They become obsessed with their horse’s head and neck, particularly when they feel mental discomfort concerning what they are working on.
Another bad habit many riders have developed is to continuously look down at their hands. As though expecting something to appear there… It won’t. And you are simply making it more difficult to maintain forwardness when you do this in your riding.
2 . Carry yourself with purpose
Posture is important when riding. It is also vital when establishing and maintaining forwardness in your riding. However, when we feel unsure about something, often we have to mindfully change our posture. You know what I am speaking about.
The rider who feels confident and is thinking forward looks very different to the rider who is ‘stuck’ in the moment or movement.
When you are in the saddle today, be present to what you are thinking and how this is impacting your posture. Notice when you are ‘playing small’. And then actively change that. Sit tall in the saddle. Open your chest and shoulders. Allow your seat to move with the horse. Open your hips and knees. Let your joints become shock absorbers…
Carrying yourself is one of the simplest yet most effective things you can do to positively impact your conversation with your horse.
3 . Develop the Relationship Between Your Seat and Your Hand
Your riding aids are important when establishing and maintaining forwardness in your riding. There is a connection between your seat and your hands. Your seat will ‘set up’ the actions you take with your hands. By acknowledging this connection exists, and then cultivating it, you can begin to firstly ‘allow’ the forwardness and, later, direct the forwardness.
Often we ‘say’ forward to our horse, but because we feel unsure of our own abilities to handle the situation, we then say ‘whoa’ with our aids. I spoke about this in THIS PREVIOUS EPISODE all about blocking with your seat.
Think about the relationship between your seat and your hand every time you ask a question to your horse. Develop the connection between the two.
Watch how it will help you to not only establish forwardness but to maintain it as well. Even when things don’t go exactly to plan. Or you are not feeling ‘comfortable’.
4 . Plan Your Next Move
The final action item you can put into practice today in the saddle to help you maintain forward is to plan your moves. No more deciding to canter at the drop of a hat. Or making a handbrake turn because you suddenly realized you should do something different.
Planning each move allows both you and your horse to learn to trust the forwardness.
It will help you to more intentionally, and therefore accurately, direct the energy. This leads to a smoother ride and a ride that feels aligned, throughout. This is particularly important when those movements of discomfort show up. Think through each movement. See yourself and your horse happily completing it and working forward from it.
Learn to Notice Your Discomfort
When we feel emotionally uncomfortable in our riding, we often sacrifice forward. We do this in life as well. It feels easier to hunker in and hid, rather than doing the work and moving on through.
Keep in mind that things often have to become a little messy before they become what we want.
Learn to become comfortable with the messy, and by taking consistent action, move through it.
Additional Resources for Equestrians
- Join Connection today
- Learning to Stop Blocking with Your Seat – Part 1
- Learning to Stop Blocking with Your Seat – Part 2
- Online coaching and audio horse riding lessons for equestrians
- Groundwork for Riding
- Online community for equestrians working on their mindset & fitness
- Online Community for equestrians focusing on re-schooling horses (and ex-racehorses)
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio