Ride your horse with a plan

Photo by DVPonyClub

I always think that riding isn’t difficult, but riding well is extremely difficult. A good example is an article I was reading on how to ride a straight line. My husband (a non-rider) thought it was easy and offered the following advice “doesn’t it mean you don’t drink before you ride?” Alas, as you may well know he was horribly wrong. The article informed us, in 20 points what a rider has to do to ride a straight line.

While some of us are more goal oriented as people than others, it’s still important to have a goal or a plan when working with horses and riding. That’s because we work in partnership with a horse. Its part of our responsibility as a horse rider to help ensure the horse does not learn bad habits (at worst) but develops and thrives (at best). This is true no matter what the age of the horse. This does not have to mean that the horse develops into a competition horse. It can mean that the horse improves its balance, or builds muscle, or gains confidence, and/or increases suppleness.On the ground it can mean that the horse maintains or improves stable manners, or becomes easier for a farrier to work with or remains a real gentleman.

Horses learn from repetition. Each time we are lax or sloppy in our habits, or each time we let our horses get away with something, we allow them to learn something ‘new’. This may be something we don’t want them to be learning because we are not paying attention or not challenging them. Planning what we want out of each ride – even if it’s just a hack on our hack, helps us ensure we maintain discipline.

It’s a bit easier to work to a plan if you are a competitive rider and you have a competition programme set out. The key things to look out for are the dates of your shows; the level of fitness required of you and your horse; the condition your horse should be in; and special areas you should be working on well before the show. Show preparation takes a huge amount of work and cannot be done in the last week or two.

Given the importance of planning, it’s also important to set a goal for the year as well. Setting goals helps focus the mind and provide a context for the plans you make. It also helps keep you motivated. Goals are deeply personal – so choose what is important to you. You and your horse will be living it out in 2012.

My goal for 2012 is “to consistently jump technically good rounds on happy and confident horses.” Hopefully Off Guard and Shanghai Affair will appreciate it.

Wishing you and your horses all the best for 2012.

“The blog is the personal opinion and views of the author. It contains general information and may contain inaccuracies. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor on your own specific situation and circumstances.”


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