You know that feeling when you try something new and you get it right. Maybe your trainer or instructor is with you. Or maybe you just prepared. But, for whatever reason, you got it right. You feel like a better rider. Good feeling, hey? Until the next time you try… Maybe on your own. A couple of days later. Aaaannnnndddd nothing!
Whatever it was that allowed you to create the perfect circumstances before is now missing and you’re back to square one. And a thirsty square one, because now you have tasted the potential of this new thing!
Leveling up in riding is a tough one for many riders. And I believe it is because they don’t take the 3 factors necessary to be upgraded into their approach. Emotional, mental, and physical.
Conversations of a Better Rider…
I think as riders, we often underestimate the conversations going on in our heads. We don’t take into account the ongoing chatter that our mind creates when we do ‘the thing’. Which can have a serious impact on what is happening in the saddle.
You can upgrade the skills. Even upgrade the knowledge of what to do with these skills. But if you don’t upgrade what you think about it; nothing will change
It is a harsh fact and one that holds so many riders back. However, mindset is just one element that can hold you back from becoming a better rider… And, as I said, if all 3 are not being developed together, it creates a ceiling for you and your riding.
1 . Emotional
I believe that confidence can be borrowed. This sounds a little strange, however, we see it all the time with schoolmasters (whether the schoolmaster is horse or rider). The more experienced team member can ‘loan’ their confidence in the greener team member’s abilities.
I can bet that you have experienced having a trainer or instructor in the arena with you and feeling like you’ll ‘give it a go’ purely based on them telling you that you can do it…!
This is borrowing confidence. This is you not feeling so hot regarding being able to do something, and yet doing it anyway because the other person, whom you trust, makes you feel like you can. The key with ‘borrowing confidence’ is to find someone that you trust implicitly. “If they think you can do it, they’re probably right” sort of a person!
Once you have done something a few times, this will allow you to build your own confidence in your own abilities. This is developing emotionally as a rider.
2 . Mental
Knowing what to do… It seems pretty obvious that this is important if you want to improve. However, this also needs to be revisited over and over again. New ways of doing things. Learning new things. Upgrading your knowledge. There are three key parts to this.
1. What do I want to do? 2. Why am I doing this? 3. How do I effectively communicate this to my horse in a way that he will understand?
If you want to ride the half-halt because your horse is becoming a little unbalanced around corners, it is important to remember the above. It’s not enough to merely know that the half-halt can benefit this. You must also know how to effectively tell your horse that you want him to half halt.
Your job is not to do the thing. Your job is to ask your horse to do the thing. Then get out of your horse’s way while he is busy doing the thing!
And as you develop as a rider you will learn more things. You will discover new ways to do things and different methods. And, you will begin to become better at figuring out what to do when for the best result. This is developing mentally as a rider.
3 . Physical
Doing the thing… So many riders ‘think’ they are doing the thing – but the reality is so far removed from the picture in the rider’s head! I see this a lot with different aids. The outside leg is a good example of this. So many riders ‘think’ that their outside leg is doing something. However, a quick look at a photo or video will show that it is, in reality, nowhere near that place at all!
As you learn more and grow confident in your abilities, your body will be asked to ‘do’ more.
A lack of suppleness or fitness will hold you back from actually putting what you know and what you want to do into practice. This can be frustrating for many riders. However, it is also one of the easiest to begin remedying.
Spend more time in the saddle. Sit on an exercise ball during the day. Work out. Start a yoga practice. Stretch before you ride. Choose some ‘cross training’ activities and schedule them into your weekly. Knowing what to do is not enough. You must also be able to effectively use and control your body to make that happen.
And as your skills grow and you develop as a rider, you will have to also develop your body physically to ‘do the things’ you want it to do.
A Checklist for Developing your Riding
So, the next time you find yourself in an arena, struggling to do the thing that you thought you could do, run through this quick checklist…
- How am I thinking about this?
- Have I upgraded my beliefs regarding my skills and abilities as a rider so that I can do this?
- Do I know what I want to do?
- Why am I doing it – is this the right thing to do?
- What is the most effective way to communicate this to my horse?
- Am I physically capable of doing this?
- Is my body doing what I think it is doing?
Look for where you need to do a little more work and then focus on upgrading that one area. Then circle back and try again.
This is an ongoing process to become a better rider. This is ‘the work’. And by taking the time to ensure you are developing in all 3 areas, you will soon begin to see the progress you want in your riding.
Similar Topics & Resources
- Developing and Celebrating Your Unique Style as a Rider
- Riding & Acting; The Connection
- Developing a Rhythm for Your Progress in the Saddle
- What’s Your Riding Number?
- Connection; My Online Membership for Equestrians
- Online community for equestrians working on their mindset & fitness
- Online Community for equestrians focusing on re-schooling horses (and ex-racehorses