- Get fitter
The top professional riders know this, but as amateurs a lack of fitness can often get eclipsed by work, family and simply the time involved in riding & managing horses. So anything you can do to improve your cardiovascular fitness is only going to help you ride better. Ideas might include HIIT sessions (high intensity interval training sessions – google it!), swimming, jogging, exercise classes or DVDs at home. Something is better than nothing 😉
- Get assessed by a physiotherapist
A good physio who understands horse riding is invaluable. They’ll work with you to identify your asymmetries, assess & deal with any pain or stiffness (lower back pain anyone?) and give you exercises to ride more effectively. This is definitely worth the time & money!
Ooh I do love Pilates. There a many people out there who offer Pilates classes specifically for equestrians, however virtually any Pilates will help to improve you to improve your riding. Do it!
As hideous as this feels, ask a friend to video you riding your horse. Watch it back in the comfort of your own home, and try to be impartial in your analysis; make a list of all the things that you do well when riding, and all the things you would like to improve. Make a priority list of three things to work on. Do keep the video(s) as a record of your progress; it’s great to be able to look back & see how far both you and your horse have come.
- Have regular lessons
Whether monthly, weekly or daily (!!), lessons with a qualified, professional and experienced instructor should be both enjoyable and help you to improve. Make sure you know what your homework is and be disciplined in doing it.
- Ride a variety of horses
It’s so very easy to get used to riding just one horse; challenge yourself to either have lessons on a schoolmaster or ride other horses (which are suitable obviously). You’ll start to see things from a whole new perspective & develop skills you never knew you had.
- Learn from the professionals
Have lessons, go to demonstrations, clinics, conferences, go with friends to their lessons, take notes to remind yourself of different techniques/approaches/ideas/sayings. It can be hugely inspirational to change your environment & see how elite riders work.
- Be kind to yourself
Many riders are really horrible to themselves! I’ve heard things like “I can’t ride!”, “I’m so stupid, why can’t I do this?”, or “I’m such an idiot, what is wrong with me?”. Would you ever speak to anyone else like this? No. Of course not.
When you feel like this, try to take a step back & take the pressure off yourself. Remember that riding is a constantly evolving learning process and while we’re aiming for perfection, it’s a long journey which will have both good and bad days.
Try not to beat yourself up too much.
- Get reading
I can say this as I’m a BIG reader of books, but I absolutely love learning more about riding. This really helps to give me ideas when I’m feeling unmotivated; different ridden exercises, ways of thinking as a rider, finding the advice of experts in their field. If you’re not into books, there are plenty of established equine magazines and online resources to help inspire you.
- Remember that you are supposed to enjoy it, and so is your horse!
Sometimes, we put ourselves under so much pressure to have our horse working a certain way, or to achieve a certain goal, that is has a huge impact out our riding & relationship with our horse. Take a step back & remember that is should be fun for you both (but that doesn’t mean it will always be easy!). Smile, giggle at your horse, sing; do anything that diffuses tension & stops you worrying about what anyone else is thinking about you!