So you have made the decision to get back into the saddle. You feel great about it. Making a decision, one way or another, often has a way of settling us a little, even if the road ahead is less than smooth.
But there you are, big girl pants on; all mounted up, bum gently lowered into the seat of your saddle… And to your absolute dismay, you have absolutely no idea of what to do now that you are up there!
What many riders forget to take into account once they are back in the saddle is that things are very much changed from when they were there last.
Your body is not as ‘responsive’ as it once was. Your mind is not as focused as before. Your plan is not so clear. No, rather let’s just come clean with the stark truth that you have no idea of what to even plan for.
It’s a little overwhelming, isn’t it? Figuring out what to focus on first. However starting with the basics and easing into it is always the best approach; for your body and mind!
I am going to suggest a little more of an unconventional, but realistic and simple way to ensure you spend your first few rides laying a solid foundation. Invest the time upfront, at the beginning, and you will see the results of this later when even more difficult things are tackled with ease.
1. Knowing what is moving; and when
So first and foremost, as you settle back into the familiar feel of your horses walk, take the time to really know what is going on underneath you. When you are returning to riding it is inevitable that you will spend quite a bit of time initially in walk. Put this time to good use by studying your horses movements – and how this affects your own movements in the saddle.
Your seat is one of the greatest methods you have of communicating with your horse. However, regardless of how well you can control your core and seat, it is only truly effective if used at the correct time and place.
To do this you have to know, eventually without even consciously thinking about it, what your horse is doing at any given time underneath you.
Master this in walk initially, and then from here work on your ‘feeling’ skills in trot and, later once you are fitter, canter. This is a skill well worth investing in.
2. Moving Forward
It sounds so simple, but you would be surprised at how many riders think that merely moving constitutes moving forward.
When we speak about forwardness in riding, simply put, it means that your horse is going somewhere with a sense of purpose. This is regardless of whether he is in walk, trot or canter.
Now, it is also worthwhile noting that forwardness is not rushing. If he looks or feels like he is late and trying to make up time, you are no longer moving forward, but rather running.
Confusing, I know, but think about solders marching. They are going somewhere with a sense of purpose. Their stride is full of energy, but they are not rushing, they are not racing and while they have a sense of purpose, they have freedom of movement to ‘swing’.
When it comes to horses, moving or going forward is essential for everything, so spend a little time knowing how it feels and ensuring that your horse is doing it when you ride.
3. Your Half Halt
So once you have your horse moving with a sense of purpose, it is important that you can direct this ‘purpose’ or energy where you want it to go. All channelling or directing of energy when it comes to horses really does come back to the riders ability to perform a smooth, fluid half halt.
Returning to riding is actually perfect for mastering your half halt, especially during earlier rides.
It helps ‘retune’ your horse to your, most probably less than perfect, aids again and it allows you to become intimate with your core; how it works and how it influences your horse.
Your half halt is essential to all things in your riding, so invest time in refining yours.
4. Rhythm and Balance
The final piece of the ‘where do I begin puzzle’ is becoming acquainted with your horses natural rhythm again. Couple this with the ability to feel when things are balanced, and when they are not, is a valuable lesson to recap when initially getting back into the saddle.
Later, when you begin to change gears a little, the ability to maintain a steady rhythm will serve you well. Of course, knowing how your horse feels when he is beginning to lose his balance will ensure you can rebalance, using your trusty half halt, before things go too far and the energy or forwardness is lost.
Keep Things Simple
Unfortunately one of downsides to not having a plan is trying to do everything at once – resulting in you achieving little in the long run; and becoming extremely frustrated about your lack of progress!
Remember to keep things simple for at least the first week or two. Master the above basic steps and skills while you and your body becomes familiar once again with the feel, movement and sensations of your horse underneath you.
Returning to riding is a big, often scary, step for many riders. Give yourself a little head-start by having a plan of action from the moment your bum makes that long-awaited, keenly anticipated, contact with the saddle.
Read the post Returning to Riding – Great Expectations HERE>>
Are you returning to riding? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with it all? I may just have the thing to help you get back into the saddle – and enjoying yourself there again!
With a focus on building a solid foundation, the Successfully Returning to Riding Masterclass will focus on your riding, your fitness and your mindset, overhauling all three to give you the kickstart you are looking for when back in the saddle.
Here’s to making your ‘Returning to Riding’ as enjoyable and successful as you dreamed it would be :)