It can seem like something that only novice or beginner riders would worry themselves with; revisiting the basics. After all, surely there’s a point where, as riders, we can ‘set and forget’ a couple of things in our riding? Basics like position and the aids. Or trotting and cantering…
And I think a lot of this stems from the fact that we see the basics as being, somehow, for beginners. For riders who are only just getting started on their journey. Surely not riders who have been hard at work for 5, 10, 40 years… Or riders who are competing at high levels.
And yet, if riders could begin to swap out the word ‘basics’ and replace it with the ‘essential foundations for the current level of work or development’, revisiting those old places, from this ‘new level’, wouldn’t seem so bad after all, would it?
Upgrading As a Rider
As a rider, you are developing your skills all the time. You learn new ways of doing things. And you also stop doing things in certain ways because they no longer serve you.
Being willing to put down old thoughts, methods, and ways is an essential part of growing and developing as a rider.
When riders cling to the ‘old ways’, progress will inevitably come to a halt. Whether we like it or not, there is a capacity for what we can hold at any one point in time…
And yet, letting go of the old ways can feel so uncomfortable! There are thoughts like ‘well, it’s worked fine up until now’ and ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’. To which I answer, why wait until it breaks? Upgrades are essential for everything that is in good working order. Maintainance and replacing worn-out parts keep things going – and make them better.
You cannot ask a horse to halt the old way and ask a horse to halt the new way at the same time. Something has to give.
Deciding What Needs Revisiting
I am a huge believer in tracking things. Looking for patterns and then tweaking a specific something in order to see what happens. If you apply this to your riding, you will begin to clearly see what needs upgrading.
For example, perhaps you have now begun to work on contact. You can maintain good quality contact while you and your horse are moving forwards. However, as soon as a downward transition is required – Hello Hollowness or Hello Heaviness! In this situation, it could be your half halt that needs to be revisited and upgraded to now include or allow for this new skill of contact. Or it may be your balance of aids; how you are using your aids together to communicate something specific to your horse. Maybe you need to learn to become less reliant on the reins through downward transitions and develop your seat and weight aids more.
Each time you learn something new, incorporate something different or reach a plateau in your riding, it is worthwhile revisiting the basics.
Tracking your progress, and your horse’s development will allow you to see specifically what needs to upgrade in order to truly move forward to the next level in your riding. And, as riders, it is important to both want to and try to develop your skills, understanding, and practice.
What Makes a Great Rider?
It’s a big question, I know. But if I think about someone who I really admire as a rider, what usually stands out is how ‘quiet’ they are. They really have taken the time to develop their skills in a way that allows for a ‘secret conversation’ to take place.
Great riders, whether they realize it or not, are happy to adapt what they do in order to more effectively communicate and partner with their horse.
They are fluid in their thinking and actions. They know that a one size fits all solution is not the key to working with any horse. They can assess and feel the situation without even consciously having to think about it. And they have their own basics sorted out and developed so that their focus can be on the effective communication they want to achieve with their horse. Not fixing their position or using more ‘leg’ at a certain point in the movement.
And they are not afraid to go back, spend time revisiting the basics knowing that what they put onto autopilot is what works NOW for them in their riding. This creates clarity going forward in the training and development.
Revisiting the Basics in Your Riding
This is a key point; your basics should be on autopilot. You really and truly do not want to spend your time in the saddle focusing your attention on ‘lifting your hands or bending your elbows’. You also don’t want to keep having to ‘fix’ your lower leg because it wanders.
Whether you realize it or not, you already have basics on autopilot. The question is, are those things still serving you? Or are they outdated and holding you back?
How you stopped your horse the very first time you rode a horse looks very different to how you stop a horse now – we hope! You upgraded your knowledge and skills. And from this upgrading, you changed the actions you take to make it happen.
Doing things a certain way because that is how you have always done something is only a recipe for becoming stuck and hitting a plateau in your riding. You MUST upgrade things in order to improve and thrive as a rider.
I bet that, as you read this, one or two things jumped out at you that you can begin working on or improving in your riding. It could be the thing that an instructor or trainer is saying a lot… Or something that seems to be written on every ‘marks sheet’ you get from judges or assessors. It may be something you keep complaining about to your equestrian friends, or your horse!
Once you have identified something that needs upgrading (and something will always need upgrading), begin creating a plan to make it happen…
Find out more about that basic. How can it evolve or how can the role change? What can you do differently or change? When you know more about something, the path to making it happen will appear.
Find exercises that will help you to work or develop that basic more. Some may be riding-related, or some may require you to upgrade your mindset or physical fitness.
Once you know what you want to work on, the final piece is to do it. Take diligent, correct action, and see how things change. Once you upgrade a basic, you will see a whole new level appearing in your riding. And your horse will feel the difference as well.
Returning to Riding Program
For many riders, being out of the saddle for a while means that they are no longer sure of what needs work in their riding! If you have been on a break from riding (2 months or 20 years) and would like a step-by-step system to get you back into regular, effective riding, make sure you check out Returning to Riding.
This premium program (usually $497) is completely free if you join Connection, my monthly membership for equestrians, in the month of March 2022.
- Join Connection today and transform your riding journey
- Putting 1 Basic on Autopilot This Month in Your Riding
- Returning to Riding – Focusing on the Basics
- What are the Basics when it Comes to Riding
- The Importance of Correcting and Perfecting the Basics in Your Riding
- Start with the Basics in Order to Build Confidence
- Returning to Riding (Basics on Autopilot) Program
- Online community for equestrians working on their mindset & fitness
- Online Community for equestrians focusing on re-schooling horses (and ex-racehorse