There are so many riding disciplines and styles of teaching. It's hard to distinguish between right and wrong, especially since there are so many different opinions and "paths" to "good" riding. But everyone has a different opinion about everything in horse riding, from tack to theory to rider position to how to use your aids (or don't use them at all!) to everything you can probably think of! Am I not right?
How can you tell that the way you're learning to ride is the "right" way?
As they say, there are "many roads to Rome," and horseback riding is one of those activities that really fits that bill. As you learn more, you realize that there are many ways to teach the same end result to the horse, and when it comes down to it, we all walk, trot and canter or gait (according to our discipline and breed type movements).
But there are certain things you can look for that will give you absolute insight into the "correctness" of how you are riding and what you are learning.
Listen to your horse
One of the best indicators of the "right" way is your horse's response to what is being taught. While there is such a thing as challenging the horse and putting him out of his comfort zone, you will almost always know that you're on the right track because the horse will show you pleasure - through his bounding gait, through forward ears and eager expression, through his snorts and even (hopefully controllable) romps - when your horse feels good, you will know it. And you'll feel good too.
Improved Health of the Horse
So I know you already give your horse the best care you can, in terms of food, vet care, supplements, and even other professional care such as massage and chiropractic. But good riding and training techniques can be actually seen in the horse (and the rider, btw). With correct riding, the horse's musculature improves. The top line fills. The hind end rounds out. The hooves get bigger and wider (yes! it happens!). The coat starts to gleam.
You will be able to recognize a "good" system just from feeling, or watching, your horse's movement. There is nothing more amazing than to learn how to go from a tight, stuck walk (or trot or canter) to a flowing, free gait that allows your horse to move to his potential. Even better is to watch your instructor get on and morph your horse to such great movement that you never thought your horse could ever do!
Things Get Easier Over Time
While you may be continuously challenged with new skills or understandings, you can see clear progress in your development because the old "impossible" skills become easier and easier over time. Your body becomes more automatic. Your horse becomes more responsive. You can float through what was once an onerous task.
Your Techniques Are Used By Other Respected Riders
We're all working in our own barn bubble most of the time. But if you stop to look around, and you recognize that what you're now learning and doing is being done by other well-respected, successful top riders in your discipline, then you're probably on the right track.
Maybe you've never heard of these people, but when you read about them, you recognize that you're already doing what they are talking about! So while you're still learning it all in perhaps the novice levels, you can see that what you're doing has plenty in common with people much farther along the path than you.
Your Own Satisfaction
I'm not saying that every ride will be euphoric. Some rides (or many) might actually be tough and tiring. Some might be confusing. But if you come out of those rides with a sense of accomplishment, with the understanding of how to improve yourself so you can improve your horse, and maybe with an odd "aha" moment, then you know this is the path for you.
The proof of the pudding is to see how other people are doing in that system of teaching and training. In general, good basics create good riders. And the success I'm talking about is whatever you see as being successful. It can be success in showing, but not necessarily only in that venue. Maybe your vision of success is to have a calm, responsive horse that you can pop on the trailer at will, to go on a trail ride with your friend who lives an hour away. Maybe you want to ride your horse well enough to keep him sound into his later years. Is this what you're seeing done by the other riders who are learning from the same instructor?
Well, the horse industry is certainly not one-size-fits-all. It may take time for you to find that "right" path, but when you do find it, you will know!
Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!
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This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.
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