Affordable Ways to Become a Better Rider
For many people, weekly or even monthly riding lessons are impossible. Whether for financial reasons, lack of time or a myriad of other reasons, many riders must work on their riding outside of a formal training program. If this is the situation that you are in, take heart. By taking some time to sit down and develop goals and a plan you can improve your riding with limited instruction.
Accurately Assess Your Riding
The goal is to be totally objective. Coax a friend to hold a videocamera and tape your ride. Run through everything you would normally do, transitions, lateral work, you want a video that you can use as a benchmark for your riding skills. Once you have that video tape, take it home and watch it, several times. Take the time to focus on each body part, yours and your horse’s. Take notes as you watch. This way you will not be distracted trying to keep a mental “to-do” list. Jot down all your thoughts, good and bad.
Decide Where You Need to Improve
Turn off the video and look at your notes. What areas are consistently weak? What areas are strong? Really break each move down. It is not enough to notice that your horse has a sluggish canter depart. Does he run in to the canter from an unbalanced trot? Does he ignore your leg? By breaking each problem area down to a simple step, you will be able to accurately determine what exercises would help you and your horse.
Develop a Plan of Attack
Once you see your list of problem areas, you may feel overwhelmed. Relax. Pick one weak area and concentrate on that only. Want to improve that sluggish canter? Practice trot-canter transitions on a circle, add hill work and cavaletti work, and work without stirrups once a week. The variety will keep you and your horse from getting bored, and each exercise has a purpose. The transitions get your horse listening to your leg, as well as strengthening the hindquarters. The hill work and cavaletti are terrific strengthening and balancing exercises, and the no-stirrup work will strengthen your leg, which will improve your horse’s responsiveness.