Self Assessment and Your Riding – Your Comeback to Riding

Self Assessment and Your Riding – Your Comeback to Riding

Self Assessment and Your Riding – Your Comeback to Riding

So you’re back in the saddle. It feels amazing and you love how each ride is jam-packed with learning new things and rediscovering little things you’d forgotten. However, once the initial excitement begins to wear off, you’ll probably start thinking about how to improve your skills.

Self-assessment is a skill all riders can practice and improve. And it is essential if you want to improve your riding – and your horse’s overall way of going.

The challenge can be knowing what to look for.  Being able to identify the root cause of an issue from a symptom of something else. This takes practice. Here’s a few things to look out for in those initial rides to create a solid foundation for your comeback to riding.

Your Posture and Position

It all starts here. If you are sitting correctly in the saddle, the chances of everything else working as they should increase dramatically.  From allowing the horse to move, to remaining balanced through transitions.  From your aids and overall communication to being able to help your horse to use it’s body better.

Start with checking your ‘lines’; ‘head shoulder hip heel’ and ‘elbow, wrist, thumb, rein, bit’. Pay special attention to your shoulders being above your hips – not in front of or behind. 

From here, think about your posture. Are you modeling ‘self-carriage’ for your horse? Are you creating ‘space’ between your ribs and your hips?  Doing this will allow your seat to open up and more easily communicate with your horse.

Weight Distribution

Once you feel like you’re in a good space position wise, think about how you are distributing your weight while in the saddle.  Ideally, you want an equal amount of you on the left as on the right. And then, as you work with your horse, you can begin to notice how your weight might shift and change.

A great exercise to help with this part of your self assessment is to make sure both of your seat bones are equal distance from an imaginary line from cantle to pommel on your saddle. 

You will probably find that while this is pretty simple to achieve and maintain in walk, your weight might start shifting in trot and canter. Especially when riding through corners and bends. Spend time in each of your riding sessions working on this.  And then test yourself regularly with how long you can maintain the ‘balance’.

You can also play with riding without stirrups and notice if this changes your position, posture, and how you distribute your weight…

Tension and Gripping

For many riders, there is something strange that often happens when trying to improve riding skills; excessive tension through the body.  This is especially true when a rider, after running through a quick self-assessment, begins trying to either try to ‘hold’ a better position or posture! Relaxation and suppleness are essential for both you and your horse!  This is why I recommend practicing in the walk first and then building slowly from there.

Remember, if you need to use excessive tension or ‘gripping’ to keep things correct and aligned when riding your horse, those things are NOT correct to begin with! 

One of the most basic foundational elements of training when it comes to horses is relaxation. In order for this principle to really be present, both horse and rider must embrace and work into it. Excessive tension, such as gripping, being rigid, holding on to the reins, and bracing through the body all work against true relaxation. And this will, over time begin to show up in your horse’s way of going as well.


Finally, I would suggest working on improving the overall responsiveness between you and your horse. This is definitely a trained behaviour.  This means that if your horse is not as responsive as you would like, someone has probably trained him that way, either intentionally or not!

When working on improving responsiveness, the key is to recognise and put into practice what your role is in the dynamic… You ‘ASK’ and then your horse “RESPONDS’.

It is not. your job to move the horse or to make the horse move or do anything.  Your job is to make sure you are in the right place (your position), with the correct level of tension through your body (your posture and relaxation), so that when you apply your aids correctly, your horse can respond to those aids. That’s it.  Okay, and I realize this is easier said than done.

Self Assessment by Asking Questions

When you begin to ‘ask’ questions and then pay close attention to your horse’s response, you have a baseline that you can now begin working with.  You can now tell where you are both at in your riding so that you can start to identify what needs to stop happening, change, or improve.

Often, your self assessment will show you that changes are needed for both yourself and your horse; my advice is to focus on what you can control first – YOU!

Get your basics under more control.  Understand how what you are doing is impacting the overall conversation and how you can begin making those small changes that will create a huge transformation. The basics are essential.  Your position, posture, basic aids, and moving with the horse. When you can start improving these things, the whole ride will begin to improve – you and your horse.

Happy Riding

Your Riding Comeback

Your journey back to riding is as unique as you are. While you can draw inspiration from various plans and advice, remember to tailor them to fit your individual path and circumstances.

If you’re seeking assistance with your riding comeback, consider our program ‘Returning to Riding.‘ In just 9 weeks, we’ll help you solidify your basics and transition from passenger to confident rider alongside your horse.

With private 1 to 1 coaching, easy-to-follow audio lessons, and personalized weekly reviews, you’ll see yourself progress from feeling unbalanced to mastering clear communication and improving your horse’s performance.

Through 9 weeks of private coaching sessions, we’ll provide the support you need via secure video, voice, and text. Plus, our proven program can be revisited with your horse anytime to refine both your skills.

Explore Returning to Riding today for more details and start your journey back to the saddle!

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