Tips for working on your riding when you are riding by yourself?
Due to my budget being a little tighter than it has been in the past, I am going to have to cut down on the number of lessons I take. Does anyone have any tips for working on your riding when you are riding without a trainer? I have a tendency to fall apart without someone there to yell at me! I think this will be a good opportunity for me to be more independent, if I can just figure out how to pull myself together on my own.
Approach each ride with a specific plan, or at least some kind of goal for yourself. Obviously you have to ride the horse you are sitting on that day, but I find it helps to have an overall goal you are working toward, whether that is perfecting your transitions, building fitness, addressing a position issue, or whatever. Your instructor can probably give you "homework" to practice in between your lessons, and can also probably help you come up with a plan for what to work on independently.
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
I'll be riding the same horse, my own. I just lost my lease on her, so it's a great opportunity for me to get more riding time in, but I have less money for lessons...
I find that I lack confidence in my abilities when I am riding on my own. I do not have this problem when I have my trainer there. When I am by myself I have this fear that I am doing things wrong or that I'm going to mess up my horse.
Lots of people come out of a lesson and they can't remember the next week what they worked on last Monday. I have asked students, "So, just to recap, how did we discuss riding the corners last week?" and gotten a completely blank stare. Well, how on earth can they be practicing at home if the whole lesson is a blank?
During your walk break in your lesson, recall in your mind what you just did. Recall what your instructor's main pieces of advice were. Try to 'feel' how it felt to your muscles. Slow down the timing in your head and practice key points a couple of times.
In your next walk break, replay that segment a few times over.
Then, during your ride home in the car do the whole lesson.
What was your warmup? What did your instructor say?
What flat exercises did you do first, second and third? What did your instructor say.
What were your transitions between the exercises? Did performance on one exercise influence the next exercise? (ie, your horse is cutting the turns so let's practice leg yield for a few minutes).
What position points did your instructor consistently make.
Also in your lesson, are you at least thinking of common position bugaboos when your trainer reminds you again?
It is one thing to be thinking to yourself, "I am lowering my hands like he said to," and still get, "Hands low!" -that just means your body awareness needs some work.
It is another thing to not even be thinking to yourself, "I am lowering my hands" and get reminded -that means you aren't "maintaining the lesson" in your head and are completely missing what your most important thought process should be.
At the end of a lesson it is good to have a little verbal recap with the trainer on the main points.
Then go over the lesson in your head on your way TO the barn for the next ride. Structure your walk breaks similarly to how they were structured in your lesson and do the same thing: recall what your trainer said during your lesson for that portion of the ride and evaluate it against what happened during your ride today.
After a couple rides where you "recreate the lesson" front to back you can start to get more creative with your solutions to your training issues and play around with other exercises you want to try or a slightly different approach. You will be closer to the next lesson when your trainer checks up on you again so if you start to stray a little they will get you back on course.
Yep, I find videos really helpful. Every time I can haul my hubby out to video for me, I can tell that I improve greatly the next week. The videos are eye opening! -Oh, I didn't realize I was flapping like a chicken! Oh, look how lazy the pony is being behind!
Also, I go through little check lists as I ride, spot checking myself on my weak spots, top to bottom:
Where am I looking? (better not be down!)
Where are my boobs? (better be to jesus!)
Where are my elbows? (better not be flying with them!)
Where is my left hand? (better not be bracing!)
Where is my lower leg? (I like to get in a chair seat)
I am also spoiled in that my arena is usally freshly dragged when I ride. That means all of the hoof prints are from my ride.
I take walk breaks, and wander around looking at the tracks I left. I make note of how much over stride I have, how straight I was. Foot fall of leg yeilds etc.
At the end of each lesson, talk with your trainer about "homework" in between lessons. Are there exercises that you should work on to help set you up for the next lesson or will help you work through things you learned?
Video is helpful. Do you also have someone who can serve as an eye on the ground to give you real-time feedback? You can ask them if your heels are down far enough or if you are you getting your horse straight enough. It really helps if that person can attend your lesson and knows what you are working on and what it looks like in your lessons; but even a friend schooled on the things you would like them to help you work on can be helpful.
Keep a lesson journal. Write down what you did, what was difficult (and how you fixed it), what you did well, and what you need to practice.
Ask your trainer to help you come up with a plan to work on until the next lesson. Identify some weak points that you want to improve, discuss some methods to work on them, and figure out how you're going to assess your progress. Also figure out what to do if you hit a wall.
When you're riding on your own, pick a place in the arena that serves as your checkpoint. Every time you pass this point, do a head-to-toe. Eyes up, shoulders back, elbows in, thumbs up, etc etc.
"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden
I have a white board in the barn that I make notes on, both for what my trainer has me working on, as well as anything I feel needs to be addressed specifically. When I have a lesson, we usually start with some dressage type work and focus on the horse's movement and improving it, she gets me to where I have a feel for what she wants, then we move on to jumping. I carry on with whatever exercises we were doing during the lesson throughout the week. The next week we kind of go over it, proceed to the next step/level etc, discuss what I think is working and what isn't, and then jump, etc etc. I do jump by myself frequently too, but usually just work on basics when by myself and save the grid work and big jumps for when she's around.
Have a plan in your head like today is collected canter day or square corner day or lateral movement day just focus on one or two things and enjoy. However, if your ride becomes "learn to deal with the coyotes in the bushes" day or the wind then be flexible for that. I have always ridden on my own and that is how I plan every ride with my horses. Have fun !
Beyond all the great advice to ride with a plan and repeat your own lessons....try also repeating other people's lessons if you can! I am not sure if you have the time for it (I am lucky that I work &live at the barn 24/7, so I sneak in a lot of observation time), but if you can be a bit o a barn rat and watch some barn mates lessons or the trainers school the horses, that comes free. Watching those pros ride that perfect corner or do that great transition can provide a great mental picture for you. Listening to them tell your peers how to get the best out of their horses will provide some lightbulb moments.
Try your best to sty positive and confident. One of the reasons I ride better with help around is it tends not to get into that downward spiral of perfectionism-frustration. If things aren't going well, go back to something you can do easily. For example, I have crookedness issues, and sometimes struggle with my left turns. Sometimes I just lose all semblance of riding ability and my horse obviously falls apart...in this case, I will usually do a few right hand circles just to remind myself I can steer...somewhere...and going back to the left tends to work much better. However, still try to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit, still with positive thinking....for instance "well that circle at the trot was some, I think I can follow that same track at the canter."
If you find negativity and frustration is a big challenge for you, one of the biggest helps is just to ride with someone around, doesn't even have to be a better rider than you, or even a rider at ll really. For one, some light conversation can distract you from an unhealthy sort of focus. And in total honesty, most of us have some censor that doesn't want us to look grumpy bears in front of company (I mean I'm not saying I go from horse abuser to angel or any extremes, but I think I can put on a happier face knowing someone is watching...and that translates to a happier inside too).
Last edited by Pally; Nov. 3, 2011 at 08:37 AM.
Reason: I look illiterate
For checking position, if the horse was pulled out from under you you should land on your feet. Just get a friend to pull the horse out from under you- real quick and sneaky like. Or failing that if you can rise up out of the saddle without adjusting your legs you are likely in a balanced position.
One of my favorite solo ride "programs" involves creating three speeds of walk, trot, and canter (slow, medium, big/fast) and being able to change between them all, throwing in an occasional halt and when halting I like to spend longer than 3 seconds before moving off again. Do your work off the rail as much as possible, it'll show you how straight your horse REALLY is, and also keep you both from going on autopilot. Practice haunch-turning, it'll get your horse straighter and more balanced on his haunches--will really help when you find yourself coming out of the corner towards an outside line. Set poles on the ground to ride over at all gaits, focusing on creating a long neck out in front of you. If you're at the place with your horse to do this and it won't fry your brains, it's fun to practice lengthening and shortening the stride between two poles to change the number of strides. Another great thing to do with a video camera is not just video your ride, but video your lessons, and watch for inspiration before your ride.
I have been compiling exercises that I like to call "instant feedback exercises". In other words, the exercises themselves will give you the necessary feedback rather than having someone tell you it was wrong/right.
A good example is double posting (down, up, up, down, etc). When your lower leg is not in the correct position, or if it is too weak, you will fall backwards on the second up. There are lots of position strengthening exercises like this that are challenging and great to work on your own.
Some other basic exercises would include various transitions. Depending on what you want to work on, you can create series of transitions (different gaits, different positions, or even lateral movements) to help correct problem issues. With the right sequence of transitions, you should be able to easily tell if they are done correctly or not. A very basic example might be working at a trot, on a circle, on a loose rein, then transitioning to the canter. If your horse is properly balanced it will pick up the correct lead without falling in or bulging out of the circle.
The key is to challenge yourself in such a way that you really think about what is going on. Doing simple w-t-c around the arena won't give you much feedback to work off of and can lead to sloppy riding.
If you struggle with creating your own "homework" I would strongly suggest asking your trainer to start you in the right direction. And I totally agree with the previous poster who suggested a riding journal! You can always look back and see what problems you had and try to come up with appropriate exercises to fix them (or ask your trainer).
And when you just can't think of anything new, remove your stirrups!