Instant gratification. It is a very real thing in the world we live in. People see the thing they want and, without doing a whole of anything, expect to have the same thing. Equestrians often suffer from this same issue. Instead of being on a path to better riding, they are guilty of taking shortcuts… And then wonder why, after time goes by, they never really get anywhere.
The shortcuts are more like little circles. They feel like they’re taking you forward initially, but then you will inevitably end up back in the same place all over again.
Following a tried and a trusted path takes time. Doing the work and putting in the effort also takes time. And yet, it is the riders who are willing to start slow and then, over time, speed up, that see the results.
What Shortcuts in Riding Look Like
There are things that take time to develop and strengthen. Suppleness, straightness, impulsion, contact… Now, I realize that these are all steps on the training scale, but many shortcuts are based on trying to short circuit the results when it comes to one of the above.
The reality is that, when you take a shortcut, you begin crumbling the foundations…
I believe that the foundations of all horses and riders are relaxation and rhythm. Take a shortcut, and look for one or both of the above to disappear. Excess tension, choppy steps, increase in speed, heaviness, and so many other things are the symptoms of lack of rhythm and relaxation.
Commit to doing the work and taking the time when it comes to improving yourself and your horse
Shortcut 1:- Wheelbarrowing Around Bends
A few episodes ago, I created a podcast episode titled “Turning Your Horse Versus Asking Your Horse to Turn“. If you think you might be guilty of ‘wheelbarrowing’, go back and give it a listen. For me, the definition of wheelbarrowing is when you use your reins to turn your horse.
Recently I was in the arena with a rider who tried to do exactly this. While in canter. The result? A close encounter with the edge of the arena. You see, when you use your reins to turn, firstly, you are only focusing on your horse’s head. You are failing to take into account everything from the withers/shoulders back.
And, the bulk of your horse is made up of the body mass from the withers/shoulders back; so it makes sense to try and influence the ‘bigger part’, doesn’t it?
The second part of wheelbarrowing is when riders assume they must actually turn the horse. Again, the above-mentioned rider was guilty of this. She physically tried to turn the horse. Rather than setting things up to ‘ask the horse to turn‘. They are very different things. Give THIS EPISODE and blog post a listen for more.
Shortcut 2:- Forcing Your Horse On the Bit
Ah, the good old Holy Grail of horseriding; on the bit. There is this massive misconception that in order to get your horse ‘into a frame’, you must force him there. I see riders, the world over, sawing their horse’s mouths and pulling the jaws of their horse with all their might. And it just doesn’t work!
On the bit is like contact (they are related, after all), in that it is the result of other things happening or being present.
Another way of thinking about ‘on the bit’ is to imagine it as being like baking a cake. There are all these different ingredients (forwardness, responsiveness, consistency, suppleness, relaxation, rhythm, communication, to nae a few) that get mixed together to make the full cake.
If the ingredients are mixed incorrectly, or if there are any missing, you simply won’t the desired result. And the only way to get the result is to gather the ingredients, mix them correctly, and then wait for it to bake.
I have a Daily Strides Podcast episode & blog post HERE all about contact and another one HERE focusing specifically on ‘On the Bit’. Both will help you to begin identifying the ingredients you already have, understanding what’s missing. And, they will also help you then begin to mix it in order to achieve true ‘on the bit’.
Shortcut 3:- Confusing Impulsion for Speed
The final shortcut I see all the time is how many riders think ‘faster’ will help. “Oh, big jump ahead; must go faster”. “I want to canter in the next corner; must go faster.” “My horse won’t go past the scary thing up ahead; must go faster”.
Now, like most things, there are some different times and places in your riding where speed might just be the answer. However, most of the time when you are a novice, it is definitely not!
There is a reason impulsion is in the ‘top tier’ of the training scale… It takes a great amount of physical, mental, and emotional development from both horse and rider to maintain it for any period of time. Speed, however, is different. And, I am willing to say that a lot of the times, the ‘speedier’ things are, the less developed horse and rider usually are.
If things are not working the way you want, slow down. Identify exactly what is not working and then work on fixing or improving that thing. Then speed up again if you must…
I have a Daily Strides Podcast episode & blog post HERE about True Impulsion Versus Running In Your Riding that goes deeper into all of this. I also chat (and write) about Developing Strong Hind Quarters HERE, which leads to greater impulsion.
What Shortcuts Have you Taken?
Okay, over to you… I can bet that, if you are honest with yourself, there have been times where you took a shortcut, knowing it was a shortcut but did it anyway. Probably because it gave you the feeling of a quick win. And you might have even thought afterward, “well that wasn’t too hard!”.
And yet, if you have been there, you will know that taking this ‘easier route’ rarely leads to long-term success. As soon as more pressure is applied, the wheels begin to fall off and you very quickly end up back at square one.
This week, I would love for you to take a little time and identify your shortcuts. Where are you looking for instant gratification? And, if you were to change that, what would taking the ‘longer route’ look like for you and your horse?
Additional Links to Help You:-
- FREE 2021 Equestrian Fitness Challenge – What You Can Do While You Ride
- Returning to Riding – Summer 2021 Special
- Turning Your Horse Versus Asking Your Horse to Turn
- Why Forward is Essential for Contact
- Assessing On the Bit when Riding
- True Impulsion Versus Running in Your Riding
- Developing Your Horses Hind Quarters
- Daily Strides Premium Newsletter
- Lunging for Riding
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Equestrian Virtual Lounge Online Community
- Connection; the Online Membership for Equestrians