Equestrians are a special breed of people. We’re strong, goal oriented and determined. Heck, there’s even a colloquialism about us, “if you fall off the horse, get right back on.” Because that’s just what we do.
However, most equestrians have had their share of unsuccessful rides or training sessions. First things first, know that we’ve all been there. When things are a bit rocky and you're down in the dumps, it's a good time to refresh your ride - to help you see what's not working and why, and to help you and your horse relax and get your mind off what's causing friction in the ring.
It’s important to have eyes on the ground as there are many things that you may not realize you’re doing/is happening that can result in a bad habit for you or your horse hindering your performance and training progress.
Here’s a few things that will help refresh your ride:
Video your lessons.
Once you’ve discussed your troubles with your trainer, have someone video your lessons. I’m not talking about a professional videographer. A simple cell phone video from your barn friends, significant other or parent will suffice - even if they only record certain elements of each lesson where you are struggling. It’s amazing what seeing yourself on video can do; believe me, I know!
I had problems getting a complete right to left lead change on my lease horse when I lived in Georgia. My trainer told me that I collapsed my body to the left putting the horse off balance preventing him from doing a proper change. I couldn’t feel myself doing that while in the saddle, but when I was recorded during a lead change it was obvious, and I mean ob-vi-ous!
I still occasionally lean to the left, but now that I’m more aware of that tendency, especially changing rein from right to left, I work harder to maintain a consistent upper body position.
Go back to basics.
Start back with the basics. Take it one step at a time breaking it down to fundamentals. This will not only help you regain your confidence, but it will also help your horse if he has psyched himself out and is now nervous when asked to perform. Be sure to always end on a good note and don’t push yourself or your horse too far too fast.
With my lead change issue, I went back to simple changes across the diagonal. Right lead canter through the diagonal, at the center of the ring transition to trot making sure he and I were balanced, then depart left lead canter. Only after a while of re-training my body to stay balanced through the transitions - and watching video clip after video clip - did I go back to executing the flying change.
Don’t see this a regression in training, think of it more as a re-schooling of the fundamentals that are needed at every level.
Get out of the ring.
Go on a nice hack or trail ride with your barn friends. Getting out of the ring and away from the stress and pressures of performance can help you enjoy your horse. It’s beneficial for both riders and horses to get this mental break from time to time. Riding isn’t all about competing and performance-based results. It’s about a connection you have with your horse. A connection that when built on a good, strong foundation provides the necessary building blocks for a successful future.
What do you do to help refresh your rides?
*This article is not meant as training advice, merely suggestions based on what has worked with me and my riding. Always discuss riding/training/behavioral issues with your trainer, veterinarian or other equine professionals.