Top Six Ways to Improve Your Riding

Want to improve your riding, but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions for the best ways to improve your riding technique.
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Want to improve your riding, but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions for the best ways to improve your riding technique.

One of the questions that often comes up in the EquiSearch chat room and forums is, "How can I improve my riding?" or "Where can I learn more about....?" Working alone with our horses, it's easy to feel as if we are in a vacuum and not making any progress. What we need is a plan for improvement.

So here, with apologies to David Letterman, are my "Top Ways to Improve Your Riding."

6. Read Online Articles
If you need help on a particular problem you are encountering, you may find what you're looking for online. Whether you're looking for help with perfecting your position over fences, or slowing down your horse's lope, you'll find hundreds of resources on the Web. Here on the EquiSearch site, I've gathered links to articles on a variety of training topics. In addition, since we're part of Source Interlink's Equine Network, I've been able to include training articles from the Equine Network stable of equestrian magazines, including Horse & Rider, Practical Horseman, Dressage Today and EQUUS.

  • Training Tips - Three-Day Eventing
  • Training Tips - Dressage
  • Training Tips - Jumping
  • Training Tips - Western
  • Trail Riding

5. Read Books & Magazines
Ever since I was a pony-mad teenager, I've been a virtual sponge, soaking up information about horses and riding gleaned from equestrian books and magazines. Whether you ride English or Western, there are books and magazines to match your interest and help you improve your skills.

4. Watch Videos
Well-produced videos give you a greater understanding of the principles of riding. The visual images show you, up-close and personal, the fundamentals and also the finer points of the subject in question. Videos allow you to visualise what you are aiming to achieve, as well as illustrating faults and errors to avoid. Watching videos is like taking a virtual lesson.

3. Attend Clinics
Many trainers give regular clinics. These are a great way to learn, whether you sign on as a "demonstration rider," or an "auditor." Demo riders have the opportunity to ride under the instruction of trainer who they might not otherwise have access to. Auditors have the opportunity to watch several horse and rider combinations being put through their paces. It gives you a chance to understand that particular trainer's philosophies and watch as he or she works with the riders to improve their form on the flat, or over fences.

If you're interested in attending a clinic, watch for notices in local equestrian journals, or check with barns and riding clubs in your area to find out about upcoming clinics and other educational events.

  • Associations/Clubs

2. Get Out & Ride!
All the clinics, videos, lectures and books in the world won't help until you spend time putting theory into practice. Whether your ambition is to move up a level in competition, or simply to enjoy your trail rides, knowing you have the confidence to handle any situations that come up, hours in the saddle practicing and perfecting the techniques you have learned will be time well spent.

1. Take Lessons
And the No. 1 way to improve your riding is to take regular lessons with a good instructor. It's very easy, when you're riding on your own, to fall into bad riding habits or to allow the horse to train you. You may not realize that your leg has slipped too far forward as you adopt what feels like a comfortable position. Or you may avoid loping in one particular direction because your horse feels stiff and unyielding in that direction. A good instructor will be able to help you correct positional errors, solve training problems that crop up and inspire you to improve your technique, challenging you and encouraging you.

So there you have it, my top six ways to improve your riding. I hope you find them useful.