Thursday 11 April 2019

Five Ways To Be A Better Rider

Since my riding life seems to come with a lot of ups and downs, I'm often pondering what I can do to be a better rider, particularly when I have some down time out of the saddle. There are tons of articles, books, and lists online that address this exact topic and I won't pretend to know any more than they do. I do, however, know myself better than anyone and I know what works for me. My top five is likely different than yours, but I thought it would be fun to share:

1. Focus. Striving to focus on the moment. I'm quite good at worrying or trying to be proactive about something that *might* happen. I'm also easily distracted. As in most aspects of life, if I can drop all that excess and simply "be"  I'm more apt to have a good feel of what my horse is telling me.
My favorite resources: Yoga, hiking.
Book suggestions:The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down, Inside Your Ride

Trail in our neighbourhood looking especially Zen.

2. Knowledge. I'm lucky I like learning things, because I'm not sure there's a sport out there that requires quite so much of it! A good coach is invaluable for reaching your riding goals. I'm so lucky to have mine! Auditing clinics is a cheap and effective way to learn. I've also found a ton of value in books, on the internet, and even in random places you might not expect. These days, while having eyes on the ground is invaluable, there is still a lot you can do on your own with freely available resources. Don't limit yourself to equestrian topics, if something interests you, try it and find out more about it! I think keeping an open and learning mindset benefits me in all parts of my life.
My favorite resources: The library, equestrian professionals, live streaming events with commentary. Youtube - there are tons of clinics and how to videos there. USEF network. Check out old Badminton dressage videos - Carl Hester is doing the commentary and giving a mini clinic while he does so! More recently, the Adequan West Coast Dressage festival has commentary from retired judges usually at least on one of the days.

3. Fitness. As we all know, riding well is tough. Staying mentally and physically fit is a huge help. I admittedly struggle with both, but again, there are a ton of resources out there and you don't need to join an expensive gym to see results. From my own experience, the fitter I am, the easier better riding comes.
My favorite resources: yoga, hiking, in saddle exercises like dropping reins and/or stirrups, two point practice. Book suggestions: Equine Fitness: A Program of Exercise and Routines For You and Your HorseThe Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down, Centered Riding

4. Inspiration. Nothing gets me motivated to be better and set some big goals than surrounding myself with like minded people. My coach's barn is amazing for that. The times I'm boarding on my own? The internet and books are my friends. There are so many events that stream live these days, and good books are easier to find and acquire than ever.
My favorite resources: My coach, my barnmates, Youtube for riders I admire, bloggers. Outside the riding box: autobiographies, TED talks, and interviews with people who are passionate and excited about their chosen topic.

Legit would have never tried eventing without super inspiring barn mates encouraging me.

5. Ride. I used to worry that since I am not a perfect rider, unsupervised time in the saddle would result in bad habits. That is true, at least for me, but the benefits of simply putting the time in, whether its in the arena or out on the trail, have still been huge. I think, no matter what, you simply need hours in the saddle. Once you've got a good seat, the finer aspects of riding come a lot easier. Riding Bridget bareback all winter due to saddle fit issues improved my riding so much, even as someone who's been riding for many years. If you don't have access to a horse to ride all of the time, I've also learned so much by simply watching other riders and yoga has been a huge help in keeping me balanced and aware of my body.
My favorite resources: Bridget! The Trailforks app for planning trail routes and times, Equilab app for arena work.

B having a post ride snack.

Of course, it should go without saying that good horsepeople generally have a head start to being a better riders. I try to be as hands on as possible with my horses - for someone like me who doesn't have a lot of natural talent or "feel" for riding, it's a big help for me to know my horses inside and out.

I'd know this nose anywhere :)

So, thats my list! I'd love to hear the tips and tricks that help you improve.


  1. I love this post. I agree with everything.

  2. Oohh, I LOVE this! It's a perfect list for me, too, and I agree with each of your points.

  3. Really great post! I have started doing guided meditation and it's really helping me in the focus department and "making space" in my mind.