5 Ways to Become a Better Rider Without Being in the Saddle

A guest post by Andrea of The Sand Arena Ballerina.

Whether you can’t get in the saddle because your country is in lockdown amidst a pandemic or your horse has an injury, there are still ways that you can focus on developing as a rider. Here are the five strategies that have helped me.

Andrea and her mare, Nonie

1. Set goals

Set yourself a few goals for when you do get back into the saddle. Preferably these goals should reflect factors which you can control for example, ‘I will focus on breathing every few strides in the canter’ rather than ‘I will win my next dressage test’. You can find some tips on goal setting in this video from performance coach Danielle Pooles.

2. Create a training plan

A training plan or ride outline is a vital tool, whether it’s to set you up for success in the show ring or to help you move up to the next level. Your training plan should lay out the structure that you follow within your warm-up, the training section, and the cool down.

This great article from dressage today outlines how you can develop your own training plan.

3. Mindset matters

There is no better time to start working on your mindset than when you are on enforced time out of the saddle. The way we think about our skills and abilities or the challenges we face in the saddle has almost as much impact on the outcome as the way that we physically approach it.

I have found that I have been able to make the most progress in my riding when I approach it from a positive mental space. From a psychological perspective, this can be explained by the two opposing mindset types.

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When someone approaches riding (or almost any other skill for that matter) with a fixed mindset, they often feel the need to prove themselves and hold the belief that talent and abilities are fixed. On the other hand, a growth mindset enables a person to view both success and challenges as part of the learning they must undertake to get to the end goal.

Not sure how to start working on your mindset? Try these suggestions:

4. Build up your fitness

There is a growing awareness that riders need to be fit in order to perform at their best. I have noticed a huge difference in my fitness, going to the gym just a few times each week.

In Australia, we aren’t currently able to access gyms. Luckily there are plenty of other ways you can keep fit. I’ve been using the Equilivin’ app, a learning platform made by riders for riders. Within the app, you can access a suite of exercise videos yoga, HITT, and pilates.

Personally, I’ve really been enjoying the pilates workouts which have made me much more aware of how my body is moving and has drawn attention to particular area’s of weakness within my body.

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5. Get Learning

When it comes to horses there is always something more to learn, whether it’s about horse care and management, or different aspects of riding. When I first started riding there were two ways to learn, reading books or learning from people.

With the advent of modern technologies, there are now countless ways to learn, from online magazines to YouTube to podcasts. Most of these are free to access. There are also a variety of online subscription platforms and online courses that offer am more interactive way of learning.

A couple of my favourite learning tools are:

Andrea is an Australian adult amateur dressage rider who funds her equestrian obsession by working as a dietitian. She lives and breathes all things equestrian and blogs about it at thesandarenaballerina.com and is a co-host on The Equestrian Pulse podcast. 

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