If there isn't any fun, what is there, really?
The only thing you have to keep in mind is how you define fun at different points in your riding career. Just like anything worth doing, there are going to be moments when you think you're having anything but fun! Maybe there's no show or trail ride to look forward to. Maybe things don't go right just when everyone is watching. Maybe the skill you're trying to learn remains ever elusive.
Those are the times when you need to bring out the most dedicated, persevering, stubborn part of you that you can. Though you might be struggling beyond your limitations, maybe even hating what is happening between you and your horse, you must hold on to the knowledge (not just hope) that if you can figure out what you need to change in your skills, you and especially your horse will benefit in the long run.
I imagine that most of us have gone through a very difficult period in our riding careers at some points. Maybe we were going through a situation that pushed us beyond our safety comfort zone. Maybe we were trying to learn a new skill that just wasn't doing anything good, and in fact, making the horse struggle even more. It happens.
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During those times, there are three things you could do.
Get an educated eye on the ground.
You knew I was going to say this first, didn't you?
I mean, there is no replacement for a great instructor who can be there with you as you go through the challenges, and give you on-the-spot strategies. In horseback riding, there is a horse and a rider, both of whom have different strengths and weaknesses. Every situation is unique. An instructor will have the experience and techniques in her "tool box" to help you chisel away at what not to do, and what to do instead.
Change what you are doing.
Sometimes, it is enough to just change the topic for a while. Do something else and then come back to the challenge later in the ride. Or scrap it altogether and come back to it in future rides. You might choose to head for the hills (literally, if you have hills) and forget about the ring for a ride or two. You could play with your troublesome skill out in the fields where there is room and invariably, more energy and enthusiasm.
In any case, don't feel like you have to skill and drill and make it unbearable. Get creative, find a way to play, and come back to it from a different perspective. While you should probably not ignore the problem, it can be helpful to step away from it for a time and come back to it later.
Kick it into high gear.
If all else fails, it may be time for you to put even more effort in than you have to date. Sometimes, the only way you can make the required change will be to just commit to the task until you make the required breakthrough.
I'm not saying you need to become harsh in your riding. Quite the opposite. The most difficult skills might require you to be extremely subtle and in control of your own body.
But commitment is key. For example, while I was in my beginning stages of learning to use my seat, I had to put much more effort into activating through the lower back and seat bones than I'd ever done before. I remember the amount of effort it took. I spent months working on feeling, activating and controlling my seat in the various gaits. I made mistakes and more mistakes, ever so slowly finding what worked and what I shouldn't do. It was not an easy task for me at the time and I had to really hunker down and commit to the new muscle memory acquisition.
But it was so worth it.
Where's the fun?
Well, the skill acquisition is the fun, isn't it? There is no better feeling than realizing that you've passed a developmental level that will forever allow you to be better equipped to address a particular riding problem because you know how.
Your horse moving better is the fun, right? There is no better feeling than being a partner to a freely moving, energetic horse that is balanced and active and powerful all at the same time.
Your horse feeling better is the fun too. There is nothing better than knowing you can be the kind of rider that allows the horse to feel good in his work.
Because there is no better reward than discovering that the changes you've made to your skills positively affect your horse - mentally, physically and emotionally.
Because it's fun to be the best rider we can be, for our horse's sake.
And THAT is the most fun part of all.
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Now is the time to re-evaluate your goals and path to riding success!
If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.
Included in the book:
- design your overarching goals
- long- and short-term planning,
- debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
- reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
- sample goals and pages
The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.
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