Guest post by Katy from The Phoenix Filly.
Equestrians are hardworking, determined, and committed people to the equestrian lifestyle. The journey of an equestrian is a learning and growing process. Horses offer the ability for us to constantly learn and try new things.
Horses can also learn new things and the equestrian life is that of a horse and its person – enjoying one another, learning together, and developing trust. Try these ideas for constant growth and development for both you and your horse during your time together.
Learn to mount from both sides.
We were always taught to mount from the left side. As an equestrian and rider, try teaching yourself to mount from either side of the horse. This improves muscle growth and use, muscle memory and is a good practice to include in the rare case of emergency should something occur that forces you to mount from the offside.
This was embarrassing difficult for me. Start with a mounting block if you have difficulties and practice each time you ride. Soon, mounting from either side will be easy! You can also mount on one side and dismount on the opposite side to really improve your skills.
Ride without stirrups.
Riding without stirrups is one of the most effective ways to become a better rider. It forces you to improve your balance, strengthen your core, and use those muscles. Two, fifteen-minute sessions of no stirrups each week can
improve your strength. In equitation, riders can be asked to drop their stirrups to prove to the judge they can ride and balance perfectly without using stirrups as a crutch.
Dropping your stirrups for a short period each ride can help your riding improve immensely. No equipment required, and no complications. Be sure to wear a helmet and start at a slower pace when first starting out. As your balance and strength improves you can pick up speed.
Steer without reins.
Reins are use as an aid. Some riders get too dependent on reins and as a result they end up with “hard” hands and their horses with hard mouths. Tie your reins in a knot and place them up the horse’s neck (or drape them safely over the saddle, whichever is easy but safe!).
Start on the rail and see if, by turning your body and shifting the weight in your seat, you can steer your horse away from the rail to the center of the arena.
Practicing a simple maneuver like this teaches you how to steer using your seat, and your horse on how to respond to the shift. It can make a rider’s hands feel light and the horse more responsive rather than jerking on its face. Try cones or barrels as a mini obstacle course with no reins once you and your horse master the simpler moves.
Take a few lessons in other disciplines.
Always learn, attend clinics, ask vet questions, etc. Do you ride dressage? Go jump or ride a barrel horse. Do you run barrels? Take a dressage lesson. Do you ride hunter pleasure? Learn dressage or ride a reiner.
Learn your craft but also expand your horizons. You’ll ride great horses, meet people with related interests and learn more about the beloved equine world than you can ever imagine.
Include riding or vet clinics, or other sources of learning in your equestrian life. You may learn valuable things about yourself as an equestrian and things to try or add to your rides that your horse might benefit from too. The equestrian world has a LOT to offer. Don’t limit yourself
Teach your horse all the things.
Can you teach your horse to roll back along the rail? It teaches them to use their haunches. Can you do a turn on the forehand or side pass along the rail? Teach your horse all the things. This helps expand THEIR horizons and keeps them interested in tasks other than the repetitive moves they may do during their ride times.
Trailer loading, groundwork, standing still while tied, etc. are all things horses should know. By teaching them as many things as possible, you ready them for future owners and better rides by not limiting their learning.
Play horse tag or other games and trail ride.
Horses and people all need a break. Taking a walk in the woods or on a leisurely trail ride gives both horse and rider and pleasant change of scenery. Playing horseback games (yes, even adults) breaks the monotony of training and creates a fun atmosphere.
Don’t worry about your horse’s head carriage or if they are engaging their haunches. Relax, play horse tag, ride a lovely trail, and enjoy this moment with your friends and your horse.
Katy is owner and creator of The Phoenix Filly equestrian blog. She has been an avid equestrian since the wee age of three. For more information on equestrian travel, horse care tips, and riding ideas, please visit www.thephoenixfilly.com.