Don’t just ride in circles

Do you feel stuck in your riding?  Like you are repeating every lesson, hearing the same things from your trainer, not seeing any improvements, and not getting the show results you want.  I suggest looking into your daily rides.  Just like with work, in any 9-5 job, you have goals and a to do list for your day.  I encourage my students to do the same thing with their riding.  I do it as well.  I make a conscious effort to set intentions for every ride, on every horse, every day.  As a professional, obviously I am getting paid to train, develop, and showing certain horses, so it might seem easier or more practical for me to have a clear plan for the horse’s future.  But even amateurs can see the benefits of intention setting. 

Intentions keep you on track towards your goals.  They stop you from aimlessly riding around the ring with no structure or idea about what the desired outcome is for your ride.  Intentions keep you connected to your horse, your teammate.  If you are new to setting intentions, here is my daily process.

I ask myself, “What are the biggest problems I have with this horse?  Where do I get into trouble?” Then I brainstorm.  Let’s say my imaginary horse is locked on the left side, has a weak left lead canter, shifts hard to the right over the jumps, and is dull to my leg.  Now that I know what I want to fix, I come up with exercises that will help strengthen those areas.  Each ride I focus on one or two exercises to specifically work on those problems.  Here are some ideas about intentions for your next ride.

Intentions for the horse

  • Have the horse moving forward off my leg
  • Keep activity in the hind end
  • Keep the horse straight
  • Have the horse balanced and uphill
  • Strengthen the leg to hand connection
  • Unlock the left (or right) side
  • Stretch and relax the back
  • Have control of the outside shoulder

Sometimes your intentions are more about you and less about your horse.  

Intentions for the rider

  • Keep my lower leg still
  • Soft hands
  • Be deliberate with my track
  • Keep my upper body tall and back
  • Sit deeper in the saddle
  • Be confident in the saddle
  • Relax and let the stress of the day go

The purpose of setting intentions is to help you get the most out of your daily rides.  It is a tool to keep you improving from lesson to lesson rather than hitting a plateau.  Keep asking yourself, “What did we work on in my last lesson that was so hard and how can I make that better?”  Before you get on, stop and ask yourself what your intention is for that ride.  When you ride with intention you ride deliberately.  Have a goal and let your intentions take you there.  

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Hess Equine