Have you ever noticed how things are less fun when it consists of the ‘same old, same old’ day in and day out? Many riders make the mistake of thinking that making progress in their riding only pertains to riders who compete, or desire to do so…
However, having had a riding school and livery yard for 12 years now, I can tell you first hand that the biggest reason people give up on their horse riding dreams is lack of progress.
Getting your first horse, whether it be a lease horse or actually purchasing a horse is one of the most exciting and memorable times in the life of a horse lover. A chance to do what they love – whenever they want!
Unfortunately your first horse will also tend to coincide with more time spent riding without a trainer or instructor in the arena with you. There is no longer someone there planning out your rides, guiding you along and keeping you and your horse ‘on track’.
Now, I say unfortunately because while this may indeed be fun and a bit of a novelty initially, this can all change quite quickly. Why? Well, like anything we do where we don’t have someone holding us accountable, if we are not disciplined and focused it becomes very easy to take our eye off the ball, or in this case the goal – which is progress.
Now there are a few obvious solutions to this – like get an instructor – but sometimes this is not always possible. And sometimes you might just enjoy riding alone with your trusty steed…
There are ways to make sure you are making the progress you want with your horse while riding alone. Here are a few ideas to get you started:-
Begin with where you are
In order to really begin identifying the key areas you should be focusing your attention on, you first need to asses where you are right now with your riding.
Many riders make the mistake of never considering that something might be holding them back, which leads to them never progressing at all with their skills and knowledge in the saddle.
Ask yourself a few questions…
How much progress have you made in the past 6 months?
Sometimes progress can be difficult to quantify, particularly when we don’t have regular lessons or compete regularly.
However, it is just a matter of knowing what to look for, to see if you are indeed progressing as a rider…
You should always be progressing in both physical capabilities and in mindset and thought
Think of your last ride. What part of the ride felt the most natural for you? What part did you feel could improve? Now, think of yourself and your riding 6 months ago… Ask yourself the same questions – and if you have the same answers then, yes, something is a little ‘stuck’ with your progress.
Imagine what a trainer would say to you if you stayed at the same level, despite consistently getting into the saddle. The sad fact is that many riders do not see their time in the saddle as an investment. Your time
There will always be something you are working on improving in your riding. There will always be something that needs more attention in order to happen with greater ease and softness. HOWEVER, these things should change as you improve as a rider.
How much progress as your horse made in the last 6 months?
Horse riding is a team sport, you and your horse. This is why it is important to assess the whole team when we are looking for obstacles to progress and success. This can be difficult when you are riding alone, however it is certainly not impossible. Again, it all comes down to knowing what to look for…
Assess your horses progress as you would your own. Is your horse still struggling with the same challenges? Is the training progressing and building your horse, both physically and mentally? Is your horse learning new skills and refining the older ones?
Where would you like you both to be 6 months from now?
Once you have a clear picture on how the past 6 months have impacted your riding and training, let’s turn your attention to the coming 6 months.
Knowing what the ‘destination’ looks and feels like
So often we allow ourselves to become ‘stuck’ where we are. Either we cannot see a way to go forward, which is usually mindset and confidence issue. Or we have set big goals and don’t have a plan to actually make them happen.
Either way, becoming ‘unstuck’ can be as simple as really knowing what you truly desire in your riding.
Is it the ability to have a ‘secret conversation’ with your horse? Is it the feeling of confidence in both your own and your horses abilities? Is it that feeling of connection which, up to now, has proved elusive in your riding?
Once you have a starting point, start fleshing it out… Ask yourself a few questions about what this ‘desire’, when achieved, will look like. Where will you be? What horse will you be riding? Who will be there with you? How will it feel?
Simple questions that start to move you mentally, from where you are to where you need to start going.
Riding alone does not have to mean the end of progress when it comes to your skills as a rider. Becoming clear on what you want – and how that will feel – is the key to making your time in the saddle, whether it be with an instructor or if you are riding alone, ‘worthwhile’ in the greater scheme of things.
It is so much easier to move forward when there is something wonderful pulling you there. The desire to be a better rider is a strong one. Harness it in your riding by going a little deeper and figuring out what you truly want in your riding.