Keep Riding
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Are you an average rider? You know the type - the one who has to work hard for one step forward and two steps back.

Are you the one who has to spend hours and hours finding your seat, or coordinating your hands and legs to finally not interfere with your horse?

Then join the club!

We are the ones who drool wistfully at those riders that seem to just get on the horse and blend into the movement without nary a thought. As Sally Swift wrote so eloquently in her book, Centered Riding,

Many of the great riders have the gift of natural balance and coordination so that they never have to question how to do anything with any part of their body. If they know what they want to do, their body will respond. Because of this innate coordination, they have not needed to know how one makes a leg move, or how one breathes, or how one balances. It just happens. Therefore it is usually difficult for them to explain to the rest of us less-coordinated mortals how to move some particular part of our bodies.

We are the ones who need lessons broken down into small, achievable steps that eventually develop into just one coordinated movement. We practice, practice and then practice some more, even while seeming to make only minimal progress.

If you resemble the above scenarios, don't despair.  And enjoy the following tips to get through those average rider moments that we all experience from time to time.

1. Find a good teacher.

I use the word "teacher" because the skill development required at the basic levels requires someone that can impart knowledge as well as technique. A good instructor can break down the physiology of movement. The best instructors can direct you to find feels for yourself. Detailed explanations and clarity of purpose can make the learning curve much easier and even quicker for us average riders.



2. Be patient.

Cut yourself some slack. Then cut your horse some slack. Always seek correct posture, aids, and movements but do it with a sense of humility and gratefulness. Never forget that your horse is working for you and choosing to humor your requests! If something goes wrong, problem solve and patiently redirect your horse's behaviour.

3. Practice.

As much as we would like short-cuts, secret methods or fancy expensive gimmicks that will open the world of riding to us, there is no other way to truly become an effective, compassionate rider than to practice. And so we must.

4. Accept your limitations.

Some of us not-as-young riders discover that no matter how hard we try, some parts of our bodies simply never seem to respond the way we would hope! 🙂

For example, ligaments and tendons become shortened over time and less resilient. Lower legs have more trouble staying still, or releasing our lower backs to follow the horse becomes more of a challenge. We need to acknowledge that developing more flexible bodies will take longer and harder work. We might need to seek other avenues of physical development such as yoga or Pilates to find that release we are looking for.

5. Find your comfortable un-comfort.

Despite knowing our challenges, we need to constantly seek improvement. Beware of becoming the rider who never develops their skills year after year. Always  push yourself past your comfort zone and know that confusion and frustration are part of the learning process. Difficult rides are a good sign that you are going to make a breakthrough (sooner or later)!

6. Enjoy the moment.

Even when we struggle, and certainly duringour grandest rides, we must enjoy the moments we get to share with our equine friends. For it is the moment that is what we are here for.

7. Persevere.

Sometimes, it might feel like you are never going to make that breakthrough that you've been looking for. The key at this juncture is to be so determined and stubborn that you will be willing to come back and try again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.

8. Set goals.

Set long term goals, then develop realistically achievable short-term goals. Be flexible but have an intended path. Even if you don't meet your goals, they will serve to direct your efforts and give you perspective.

9. Read, watch, imitate.

Look out for inspiration. Read the books of the masters as well as contemporary riders. In this day and age of the Internet, having access to excellent video footage of lessons, clinic rides, and show footage is at your fingertips.

Watch many riders, define what you like in a good ride and study. Then, go and try it yourself. Imitation is the first step to learning a skill set. Watch and try. Get feedback from your instructor. Once you have developed a skill, you can easily make the skill "yours" by adding something new or specific to your horse's needs.

10. Keep practicing.

Develop a routine. Follow a pre-determined path. Keep at it. There is no other way.

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If you enjoyed the above post, you might also like to check these out:

When “Good Enough” Just Isn’t Good Enough In Horseback Riding: We come up with all sorts of excuses to explain why we don’t want to or can’t get past the problem.

Too Good to be True? Finding Your Horse’s “Happy Place”: Did you know that through riding, you can help your horse achieve a happy, content outlook on life? Sounds ridiculously far-fetched? Too good to be true?

How Do You Develop “Feel” in Horseback Riding?  Developing ‘feel’ in horseback riding doesn’t have to be an impossible dream! If you can ride with feel, you will be able to respond immediately to your horse’s needs.

What you Ought to Know About Instant Gratification in Horse Riding: There is no such thing!

Quit To Persevere: Quitting isn’t always a bad thing in horse riding – sometimes, it may just be the ticket!

19 Comments

  1. What a great reminder to enjoy the moments with our equine friends! No matter that I am an average rider, I am an above average Lover of Equus, and that’s what I come here for!

  2. Maybe a little addition to #10 ( a 10.5?)–While practicing remember to stay attentive. Too often we drill away at some thing we have decided to work on without noticing that what we’re doing isn’t working after all. Sometimes we just ride around almost mindlessly expecting the horse to figure out what we’re asking. It’s a partnership and we have to make sure we are tuned in to the horse, and just as importantly, the horse is tuned in to us. Until at least one ear is cocked back toward us, we don’t have the horse’s attention. We can’t judge our effectiveness without knowing if our partner is also paying attention! The “aha!” moments come when the rider’s attitude toward the horse is “how can I help you do your best today?” rather than “I will get you to do this today”.

  3. Thank you for this article. I am one of those average riders. I started late in life (at 50) and the only thing that comes naturally to me is my love of horses. The rest is work, but well worth it! My 14-year-old daughter is one of those naturally balanced. She took to riding fast — she can climb on just about any horse, sit anything, and makes it look so easy. But she is supportive and helpful and that has meant a lot to me. Both my daughters who ride encourage me and take pride in the things I can do. Riding can bring out the best in families who ride together. It certainly has in ours.

  4. Thanks, I needed this article today. I had one of those “Why do I keep trying? I am never going to get this.” rides yesterday. Your points are all things that I know but need to be reminded of periodically! Love your blog! One of the best. I always read your articles!

  5. I, too, came to riding “late” (47!) and marvel at the riders who are comfortable, balanced and at ease. It gives me a goal to strive for and motivates me to keep trying. I’m addicted to all things horsey and love reading, learning and growing as I go. Thanks for this great post!

  6. So me!!!!! Now I teach adult beginners and just felt what they feel..and I know repecting these 10 pints makes it easier..not faster!!!!

  7. An “average rider” can move up a few notches in their riding if they get busy exercising and losing some weight (if needed). As we age (I’m going on 60 in 2015) we absolutely NEED to do something to keep our bodies moving efficiently and with balance. Riding only will not do it. Yoga and/or Pilates are ideal.

  8. First , assess the topic (are you approaching it with understanding?) if so turn the page & rewrite the description !!

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