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View Full Version : How does one become a "good" rider?



mackandblues
Aug. 9, 2011, 10:43 AM
Just curious what y'all think and I know peoples definitions of good are different. Looking for more than just "ride", like is it learning to ride one horse really well or multiple horses, etc.

Big_Grey_hunter
Aug. 9, 2011, 10:45 AM
Get the book by Denny "How good riders get good" I think it's called.

wcporter
Aug. 9, 2011, 10:51 AM
To me "good" means effective....and being effective on multiple horses who all go differently.
A "good rider" can hop on almost any horse and figure out quite quickly how to ride it to get the best performance out of that horse, whatever that may be.

This takes time and multiple rides on as many types of horses as you can get your hands on. Also, having an experienced eye on the ground (trainer, instructor) to give guidance and feedback is almost always essential, especially in the beginning.

mackandblues
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:13 AM
Yea I got that book but didn't find it that helpful. I want a list or more specific ways of how to get good...

GingerJumper
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:17 AM
In my mind, a good rider can ride effectively and correctly on a variety of horses.

A great rider can do that, and leave the horse better than when they got on it.

RAyers
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:24 AM
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

You want specifics?

1) Practice
2) Practice
3) Practice

I have ridden for 43 years. I still take 2-3 lessons a week (when my trainers are available).

I ride or work with my horses every day.

I watch lessons regardless of level to see what is being taught and how.

I ALWAYS try what my trainers teach but will also disagree when appropriate.

I ride any and every horse offered to me and ask when I can.

I PUSH the limits of me and my horses. I don't wallow in a comfort zone. In my opinion, if you don't scare yourself and ride above your ability you won't improve. You have to fail to recognize your weaknesses.

Reed

scubed
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:25 AM
What Reed said, although being female and 48, I would say I challenge myself, but am not that into scaring myself. On the other hand, I fail plenty.

olympicdreams04
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:34 AM
Ride every discipline that will have you. Throw a leg over every horse you are able. Ateend ever clinic you hear about, whether or not you are riding. Travel to all parts of the country and world as money and time allows and experience the horse industry their. Read every book and watch every video you can get your hands on. Learn the ins and ours of every horse sport whether or not you ever plan to compete. Listen to your horses a d learn to understand their language and then try to learn to speak it. Go to the racetrack both in the stands and in the barns. Go to the sales and try to learn why horses sell for the prices they do, both for confirmational and breeding reasons. Go to QH congress. Go to reining events and vaulting and driving events and anything else that involves horse sports. Watch the best and watch the rest and make note of the minute differences. Go home and stand in the pasture and watch your herd interact. Watch the alpha mare and how she establishes dominance without force. Watch the stallion keep an eye to the horizon and stand guard while the rest of the herd sunbathes. Understand horses on their terms and then, when they so graciously allow you on their backs, try to speak to them in their language and above all, listen to their response and be grateful, thankful, and appreciative of the things they give you.

Xctrygirl
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:49 AM
One big thing I have seen a lot is when people are warming themselves up and go round and round the ring without any transitions (of pace, gait, contact or directions)

Have a game plan when you ride. Know what you're asking for now, before, and coming next.

It's not enough to pretend you're on a Merry Go Round.

And as Reed says, push yourself.

Jimmy says (and I agree) "Practice doesn't make you perfect, Perfect practice makes you perfect." Hold yourself to a higher level and don't accept being beneath it.

Oh.....and buy lots of arnica gel and advil. You'll need it!

~Emily

pony grandma
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:54 AM
^^^ what they said. A tank of gas and an eyeball education -- developing an eye; and the feel, by riding all/any disciplines and all the horses you can. This kind of all almost goes without saying it is so rudimentary.

I will add - get out of the ring! Ride terrain and experience a partnership. Make the hours in the saddle count for something. Take the right kind of lessons to be effective and not just passenger. And then play with it - learn to be loose. relaxed and have the kind of seat that has learned to 'follow.'

And get off your hands -- do exercises for your core muscle strength, it really is all in your seat (shoulders down to seat to leg). Learn to steer with your legs, learn to slow your motion to slow the horse's tempo.

Spend a lot of time with your horses and learn their quirks and preferences. Don't force them, develop who they are. Trust is the biggest and best training tool.

Take the mistakes, disappointments and criticism and grow thru it. There will be those moments that make it all worthwhile. enjoy!

Riding is simple, it's just not easy :)

mugsgame
Aug. 9, 2011, 11:55 AM
In relation to what Reed said the trainers in the UK are all very into a book called Talent is Overrated. Interestingly enough I see in the COTH interview that George Morris has recommended it to Jimmy Wofford.

It is a brilliant book and explains how to get purposeful practice into every single session. It completely inspired me to do as much as I can.

There is also a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed which runs along a similar theme and looks at the science of practice.

It takes 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to be considered good at something.

You can learn and absorb just as much from watching videos, live action etc As long as you are sitting there working out why things work well/go wrong etc

This is a subject I am totally obsessed with in relation to horses and I have spent a lot of time reading about it.

I work full time but want to be the best possible rider I can be. I get everything videoed to watch back. I work for free at weekends grooming or riding out for pro riders, I volunteer for BE and Riding Club, I watch hours of videos looking at position, effective riding etc I spend a fortune on lessons with the best I can afford and I try and make every session on my horse count.

2ndyrgal
Aug. 9, 2011, 02:16 PM
If you read Denny's book (or any of JW's) and "didn't get anything useful", you might have read it, but you didn't process what you read.

There are no shortcuts. None. Nothing, not talent, not money, not even luck, replaces hard work and time.

I'm 50, and I've studied nearly every kind or horse used for every purpose there is for decades. My first book of memory was Dr John Keyes(sp) veterinary book titled "The Horse". Pages and pages of black and white conformation defect photos, disease process' and decriptions of the "ideal" horse for any purpose you could name. It was my father's only remnant of the Ohio State Veterinary College that he never got to finish, life got in the way. I sat for endless hours watching the judging at State Fairs and local horse shows. I rode everything I could ride, and fell off everything I couldn't for years. I can spot a lame horse clear across the track and ride nearly anything with hair, damn near anywhere I please, broke or not. I wrap legs better than my vet, and she wraps better than 90 % of the people out there.

I've riden, driven, galloped and shown in hand just about any kind of horse you can think of. Though everyone has a type of horse they prefer, there truly isn't a type that I can't ride well, though I'll admit to really disliking a horse that has round withers and no neck to speak of, those types I do not enjoy riding much at all.


Ride the absolute crummiest, hardest, most difficult horses you can find as often as you can. Anyone can ride the easy, fun ones. Two things happen when you do that.

Thing one.... you get Waaaaay more rides, since no one's fighting for the one you picked.

Thing two......
That's how you become a Good Rider.

RAyers
Aug. 9, 2011, 03:18 PM
Ride the absolute crummiest, hardest, most difficult horses you can find as often as you can. Anyone can ride the easy, fun ones. Two things happen when you do that.

Thing one.... you get Waaaaay more rides, since no one's fighting for the one you picked.

Thing two......
That's how you become a Good Rider.


As a friend of mine who recently won the Nations's Cup in Argentina said to me decades ago, "We got good because we rode shit horses and had to get them into the show ring." We may not have won but we rode everything we had competitively.

That is why my "type" of horse is the "crazy," independent and
intelligent ones. I like being terrified getting on a rank bastard and if I survive, developing the connection and then focusing that attitude to a fence. LOVE it!

Also, one can define good many ways. There are good riders who can make a horse that anybody can ride but not press the horse to its limit. There are good riders who can take a horse to its absolute limit but nobody else can ride it.

Aspirin, bandages, and getting used to being sore are your friends if you want to be good.

GingerJumper
Aug. 9, 2011, 03:43 PM
Just adding to agree with everyone who said to ride crummy, opinionated horses. THAT gives you skills and gets you good preeeetty quickly if you can handle it and not get your confidence shattered.

Isabeau Z Solace
Aug. 9, 2011, 04:18 PM
OP - Good Question, Good Thread

Everyone Else - Good Answers !!

OP - Give it a few days, print this thread out, hang it on your fridge.

ThirdCharm
Aug. 9, 2011, 04:26 PM
Perfect practice makes perfect.

So you have to put the time in while getting the best instruction that you can manage. And then you have to put that skill into practice on a wide variety of horses in a wide variety of situations.

You're not really the 'best rider in the barn' if you melt into a puddle of goo the minute you step out of the ring or throw a leg over a horse who isn't on autopilot.....

Jennifer

enjoytheride
Aug. 9, 2011, 04:51 PM
Maybe other people enjoy rank horses, but as an ammy with limited time and funds rank horses have only taught me the following things;

1. Curl into self protective ball

2. Hang on at all cost, even if you hang on the horse's back or mouth.

3. When you hit the ground roll.

I can stay on ANYTHING, and I will get on and will improve a rank horse, but that says more about my survivor skills then my ability to get a horse on the bit or to release a horse over a fence. Once a horse stops being rank I lack the skills and mental relaxation to further that horse.

When you ride nothing but rank horses you spend a lot of time developing a lot of habits that keep you safe but don't let you progress in the softness department. Your position in the saddle develops based on what your rank horse does. Does he leave strides out? You probably hang on his mouth a lot. Does he stop? You probably sit way in the back seat and get left behind. Does he bolt? You probably keep a tighter grip on the reins then you should.

I think that riding push button horses is an important part of making a good rider because the rider can focus only on themselves and not on yourself PLUS if your horse is going to leave an entire stride out, refuse, or buck.

It's a combination of the two skills that make people great riders.

JER
Aug. 9, 2011, 05:26 PM
There is also a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed which runs along a similar theme and looks at the science of practice.

I recommend this book over the others in its class (The Talent Myth, Outliers (yikes, that one reads like self-parody), Talent is Overrated).

The themes are similar, yes, but I preferred Syed's mix of science, analysis and first-hand experience as an Olympic table tennis player.

RAyers
Aug. 9, 2011, 05:40 PM
When you ride nothing but rank horses you spend a lot of time developing a lot of habits that keep you safe but don't let you progress in the softness department. Your position in the saddle develops based on what your rank horse does. Does he leave strides out? You probably hang on his mouth a lot. Does he stop? You probably sit way in the back seat and get left behind. Does he bolt? You probably keep a tighter grip on the reins then you should.

I will disagree with this and defend my experience as I never had a packer and still don't. If the rider has a capable trainer who is educating the rider, things like softness, and position will come around as the horse improves. Some of the best equitation riders of all time rode rank horses. They did not start on packers.

Coming at this from the opposite direction, a rank horse can teach a rider how to do the things you say you want while the horse is doing something stupid. To be able to maintain a balanced position while a horse throws in a buck at the end of the arena is a great benefit and one that is not taught on a packer. A rider who pays attention to other lessons and learns to walk courses will be able to count strides and make an effort to PREVENT leaving a stride out.

When my horses buck or "bolt," because of my education, I may ask during the outbreak, "Is my body position correct? Am I soft with my hands? Did I just hook him? Did I under power him to the fence?" And then I can fix it while it is happening or prevent it even before it happens. To me that is what a "good" rider does.

Packers are great to teach the initial physical aspects of riding and can give a rider a base of confidence, if that is what they want, but in the end they do little to push the rider. At the same time, a rider needs to handle even a packer's bad moods or inadvertent spooks, or trips and falls, and one does not learn to ride spooks by standing still or riding even the trot or canter. They need to ride a spook.

I agree, not all riders want to go beyond where they are. There is nothing wrong with that. However, as the OP asks, "How does one become a "good" rider?" then riding packers all day does little to teach effective, substantial riding that is present in what I consider "good" riders.

Blugal
Aug. 9, 2011, 05:48 PM
There are more categories than "packers" and "rank": green, young, sensitive, lazy, smart, clumsy, spooky, etc.

I have certainly learned from every category - what I learned from "rank" is that I prefer to stay off those horses!

ss3777
Aug. 9, 2011, 06:15 PM
In addition to the above great suggestions:

work as many hours as possible (with the best horse people you can find) in the barn! The hours you spend on the ground are priceless........

Oh and while you are at it........volunteer! If being a "good rider" includes competing (which is another great discussion) you had better make the time to volunteer........

happymom
Aug. 9, 2011, 08:42 PM
Ride tons of young horses of different temperaments. You either get good (maybe not too pretty, but very good) or die. :winkgrin:

Justa Bob
Aug. 9, 2011, 08:49 PM
What Reed said, although being female and 48, I would say I challenge myself, but am not that into scaring myself. On the other hand, I fail plenty.

Make that "I fall plenty" too! :D
Best wishes.

enthusiasm_exceeds_ability
Aug. 9, 2011, 09:03 PM
Chiming in a little late (and very gingerly), but I think that it depends on your definition of 'good'. I think a lot of the posts above don't merely describe good or competent riders, they describe the best types of riders.

I'd love to be one of those.

However, as an ammy with limited time, limited funds and a late start to riding, my definition of good for myself is also limited. I'll consider myself to be a 'good rider' when I can confidently hop on my horse and ride him as well as we're both capable of on the flat, and confidently take him low level XC and SJ knowing we'll both come home with a smile on our faces.

malarkey
Aug. 9, 2011, 09:43 PM
^^^ what they said. -- developing an eye; and the feel, by riding all/any disciplines and all the horses you can. This kind of all almost goes without saying it is so rudimentary.

I will add - get out of the ring! Ride terrain and experience a partnership. Make the hours in the saddle count for something. Take the right kind of lessons to be effective and not just passenger. And then play with it - learn to be loose. relaxed and have the kind of seat that has learned to 'follow.'

And get off your hands -- do exercises for your core muscle strength, it really is all in your seat (shoulders down to seat to leg). Learn to steer with your legs, learn to slow your motion to slow the horse's tempo.

Riding is simple, it's just not easy :)


Maybe other people enjoy rank horses, but as an ammy with limited time and funds rank horses have only taught me the following things;

1. Curl into self protective ball

2. Hang on at all cost, even if you hang on the horse's back or mouth.

3. When you hit the ground roll.

I can stay on ANYTHING, and I will get on and will improve a rank horse, but that says more about my survivor skills then my ability to get a horse on the bit or to release a horse over a fence. Once a horse stops being rank I lack the skills and mental relaxation to further that horse.

When you ride nothing but rank horses you spend a lot of time developing a lot of habits that keep you safe but don't let you progress in the softness department. Your position in the saddle develops based on what your rank horse does. Does he leave strides out? You probably hang on his mouth a lot. Does he stop? You probably sit way in the back seat and get left behind. Does he bolt? You probably keep a tighter grip on the reins then you should.

I think that riding push button horses is an important part of making a good rider because the rider can focus only on themselves and not on yourself PLUS if your horse is going to leave an entire stride out, refuse, or buck.

It's a combination of the two skills that make people great riders.

I really relate to both of the above quotes. I've noticed how riding a 'packer' through gymnastics allows me to concentrate on my position, and anchor my basics: independent hand, seat, leg. ~ all those GM exalted traits. Riding those packers really gave me a strong base.

AND, riding the more difficult ones developed other skills, BUT, they did erode my equitation, to the point where once I switched to a different trainer, they asked: 'why are you riding so defensively?'

I think being aware of these tendencies is also what makes you a 'good rider' ~ and, what someone said earlier: adapting your ride to the horse at hand.

Me? I'm old enough that I'm leaning toward the more 'packer' types. But, I'm not opposed to having a 'project' if it isn't too rank.

To me, the key is quality instruction. THAT is what will make you a better, more aware and therefore more effective rider.

frugalannie
Aug. 9, 2011, 10:13 PM
From the ancient brain of a 59 yeqr old comes the following:

I truly think that the way you get good changes as you age. When you are younger, you can take more chances. When you are older, you can't.

I seem to recall that Denny wrote a column on how to get good, and it included specific horse experiences one should have (like back a baby and train it, do some endurance, etc.). Don't ask me for the link!

Some of what has made me better (still working on being good): Riding as many different horses as possible -some were ridden only for minutes (intercollegiate polo), some I had longer relationships with (OTTBs I owned). Figuring out who I respected in the horse world and who I didn't (former list shorter than the latter), listening to everyone and trying to understand what they were doing and why, and when I had a chance to work with someone I respected, putting aside every preconceived notion I had and trying whatever they said with an open mind.

Because I'm...ahem...older, I have to use my brain more than my body to improve. I really have to analyze why a given horse responds as it does, and if what I'm doing isn't working, trying to figure out what I can do to make it work. I've (finally) learned patience and appropriate goal setting. I strive to give the horse a fair and honest chance to learn what I'm asking for and I'm able to feel incremental improvement.

And I've learned focus. This is the thing I think really makes a difference. When you are riding, having a completely calm focus on the communication between you and your horse, clarity of your purpose is together, and filtering out all of the other static.

Yup, it's simple, just not easy.

Jeannette, formerly ponygyrl
Aug. 9, 2011, 10:30 PM
Learn to sit evenly, to be able to intentionally ramp up and down the pressure with different parts of your body, and to recognize both "what you are really aiming for " in a horse and "steps in the right direction"

Then experiment on a variety of horses, ramping up and down various pressures, learning to return to sitting evenly when things go awry, and learning how to be more and more subtle and efficient with your pressures so you can get more and more horses to go better and better with less apparent effort on your part..

For me, finding someone who had a really good eye for when I was sitting evenly was key, for whatever that is worth. Lots of people pull off riding pretty darn well sitting at least somewhat unevenly, but I think it means they have to be that much better at something else...

lesbrill54
Aug. 13, 2011, 05:44 PM
I agree w/blugal-lots are not packers but learning to bring out the best in every type of horse is good riding in my book. Too many horses that are just plain scary tend to produce a rider who's so defensive she cant let them alone and go w/the flow. People who only want to ride the packers and "work on themselves" miss the point that you also need to work on developing the partnership(takes two to tango) and quirky , fussy or difficult horses will teach you a lot about partnership, providing that thats what you work on with them.