Regardless of our skill level or chosen discipline the one thing as riders we all have in common is the dreaded "plateau" Many riders can not afford lessons on a consistent basis and find themselves unable to progress past a certain point. Here are a few sure fire ways to improve your riding skills by implementing these tools both on and off the horse...
5. Develop your eye
Watching others ride can be a great way to improve upon your own riding skills. Many of us are visual learners; therefore, observing others can be a valuable way to make new connections in the mind that carry when we return to the saddle. If you are unable to observe lessons auditing a clinic is the perfect opportunity for eye development. Watch as many horse/rider combinations as possible. As the instructor critiques and offers feed back try to identify with your own issues. This is not about looking for faults but rather observing trends in order to identify the cause and effect.
Although observing advanced riders can be inspirational, I have found it more helpful to observe riders closer to your own skill level. Watching someone work through similar issues while listening to the instructors input can be very helpful. Don't forget to pay close attention to the response of the horse as well. After all the horse is the ultimate judge of how effective the riders aids truly are.
The fact that you are here reading this post is a good start ;) The
internet age applies to equestrians too! There is a wealth of
knowledge online allowing you to explore and learn more about every
facet of the equestrian world you could possibly desire. There are
several websites providing resources in the form of online articles,
and e books, demonstration videos and more. If you can't find what
your looking for online, these sites can certainly direct you to where
you can buy what your looking for. I am a big amazon
fan because of its ease of use and the inclusion of reader reviews and
ratings for each selection. There are hundreds of books about riding,
training and equestrian fitness ready to ship to your door with one
click of your mouse. Youtube is
finding its share of horse fanatical users these days as well...
Unfortunately, because the content is user generated, finding what your
looking for depends on the ability of the person uploading to assign
the appropriate tags. Here is an example of a helpful video I found on
youtube last week by Wendy Murdoch.
3. Cross Training
In an earlier post entitled "Fit to Ride" we discussed the benefits of pilates as a complimentary form of exercise for equestrians.
Pilate's - focuses on strengthening the 'core' of your body, which is very important in riding. Pilate’s is the only form of exercise I have ever found that truly worked my lower abdominal muscles. It attacks the dreaded pouch below the belly button that we all love to hate. Pilates not only makes you stronger and more flexible but it also allows you to work up a sweat.
There are several forms of exercise that compliment riding. Some are programs in and of themselves and require lessons. Other simpler forms such as walking, hiking or swimming certainly will help you stay fit. If you pick a structured form of exercise to support your riding, please be sure to pick a sport that covers flexibility/stretching, strength training, balance, and most importantly equal use and development of both the left and right sides of the body ( ambidextrous ).
2. Become Aware
To ride well, you need to master a wide range of skills such as balance, sensitivity, controlled strength, suppleness and, empathy with the animal on which you are seated. Posture is critical, because the synchronized use of the back, seat, legs, and hands has a powerful influence on the animal beneath you. A horse cannot be forced to perform a movement, but it can be persuaded to do so. By applying the Alexander principles and sitting in a balanced way, riding can be effortless.
Other recommended techniques to assist riders include the Feldenkrais method and other forms of body awareness exercises such as T'ai Chi. These dismounted exercises can help you find balance, and become more aware of the interaction between the muscle, skeletal and nervous systems.
1. Ride, Ride, Ride
Clinics, videos, lectures and books are all great tools but they won't do you much good until you spend time putting theory into practice. Whether your ambition is to move up a level in competition, trail riding, or gaining the confidence you need to handle any situations that come up, there is no replacement for hours in the saddle. Riding doesn't always have to be in lesson form. It can also be helpful to spend sometime riding alone, allowing yourself to gain feedback from the horse and develop feel. Preparation, Practice and Patience is the key to great riding.