What can you do when you eventually fall into that riding slump (we've all been there) when you feel like you've hit a plateau?
You know the one. When every ride feels alike. You end up doing the same things with your horse. You see little progress being made.
Rest assured that this happens regularly to all of us. In fact, it's part of the learning process. There are the times when you seem to improve each ride and then there are the times when nothing changes - or maybe you even regress!
Fear not, dear rider. When you find yourself in this situation, remember the acronym, S.L.U.M.P. Follow these wise tips and see if you can nudge your way out of the plateau a little sooner than later.
Clarity is the key to communicating with your horse from the saddle. There's nothing more difficult for the horse than to try to decipher half-messages. Look for ways to simplify your messages to the horse.
Don't be wishy-washy; instead, be sure, convinced that you know what you're asking for. If you wanted a trot from the canter and your horse kept on cantering, try again. Did you miss something in your aids the first time you asked? Did you kick and pull at the same time? Think your aids through and clairfy.
Avoid being harsh under all circumstances. It's not about just getting louder and fiercer with your aids. Settle down mentally and see what you can do to change things without causing your horse to become tense or stiff or worried. As the leader of your two-being group, you owe it to your horse to maintain calmness and clarity.
Look to yourself to trouble-shoot any problems. Learn more. Ride more - maybe your body needs repetition to strengthen and coordinate the aids. Be humble and go back to the drawing board if needed. Take lessons, watch videos, ride at clinics. Improve your horse by improving yourself. Each horse will teach you different things, and the key is to be willing to put in the work to take on new challenges.
As in, urge your horse to move. Just go forward. Forward can be the solution to almost every riding issue, whether in walk, trot, canter, laterals or back-ups. Always think forward. Get your horse to step to the bit, engage in the hind end, round over the back and respond to the bit. Then... (you guessed it)... go forward again! Live in forward.
Then remember to maintain your horse's tempo. Avoid letting the horse's legs just go faster faster faster. After you've infused the horse with activity and energy, control it. Half-halts are the key at this point, not clutch-and-grab the horse's face and hold on for dear life!
Maintain an even tempo using your seat, while posting when you're posting trot or from well-timed half-halts. Breathe! Then let your horse breathe as well. Keep the horse straight to maintain balance and regulate the leg speed.
When things don't work out, just regroup and give it another go. Although your horse should eventually respond instantly and in balance and strength, maybe it's ok to give him a few strides to prepare for the transition or movement. For now, maybe you can take some time, establish the preconditions for the next movement and then do it when your horse is ready.
Or change the topic, do something you and your horse are good at, then go back to the hard part. Accept a less-than-perfect performance from your horse but make sure you're at your best as much as possible. Put extra effort into being prepared for your ride - mentally and physically. Your horse will improve as you develop.
Whenever you find yourself stuck, remember to S.L.U.M.P your way out of your slump! And as always, once you give something a try, be sure to listen to your horse. He will always tell you when you're on the right track!
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More reading here:
18 Reasons To Establish "Forward" Energy: Lack of forward is the root of many unwanted things in riding, including crookedness in the horse (leaning in or drifting out), loss of balance (on the forehand), and bucks (runaways, spooks, balks, and a variety of other such escapades).
Do A "Forward" Back-Up: The back-up is a very important part of the correct training of the horse.
6 Ways to Unleash the Power of Your Riding Seat: As you become more subtle in the aiding process, you will begin to discover just how powerful the seat can be in guiding the horse without disturbing and interfering in his movement.
First, Plan Your Ride. Then, Scrap It: Even though you are inspired to get that horse to do the next cool thing, your horse might simply not be ready.
Polished Transitions (That Look Effortless And Feel Great): Good transitions are critical for a seamless, harmonized ride.