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