Adjusting Stirrup Leathers

Athletes need to be mentally and physically prepared for their sport. Some people meditate; other exercise; and some even psyche themselves up for the event. What every athlete has in common is the need to prepare through training for their chosen sport.

Horseback riding is a sport that requires total focus and concentration from the rider in order to connect with the horse. Horseback riding is also one of the few sports where another being, a powerful animal, is a teammate. So, as we are on our way for our horseback riding lesson or ride, what can we do to prepare ourselves to make this ride the best ride ever?

Quiet time

Use the time getting to the barn as quiet time. A time to regroup and think about how the ride will end. This is a time to visualize goals. Focus on what would make this ride great. Will we learn a new skill, practice a pattern, or have a relaxing hack with our horse? Focus on words that can help you achieve this goal. Think – energy, effort, positive attitude.

Set the tone

Once we are at the barn, we clear our mind from distractions. While walking through the door imagine the day’s frustrations and obligations leaving. Oh, they can put on a bench or fence post to be picked them up on the way back to the car. But these thoughts do not belong in the barn.

Stretch

Like other sports, riding is physical and most of us do not get enough exercise. The first few minutes in the part can be used to do some stretches, Pilates and yoga can both be helpful to get our mind and body ready for riding.

Imagine

As we get our horse ready for the ride, we used our imagination to “see” our best ride ever. We see ourselves posting perfectly, clearing fences, or going on a hack with a calm horse. Our calmness and attitude is often transferred to the horse while we ae grooming and tacking. The calmer we are, the more receptive the horse is.

We are now ready to mount and really have the best ride ever!

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.
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Demonstrating how to look ahead when riding a horse.

Your posture on your horse is key to how you ride and how your horse responds to your cues. In our last blog, we discussed the importance of a good seat. This blog and several of the following blogs will look at each element of good posture.

Your Head

The average adult head weighs about 10 to 11 pounds. The average child’s head would then weigh about 5 or 6 pounds. You may think this is not a significant amount of weight, but, when you think about balance, a shift of a few ounces can cause an off-balance situation.

When we ride, we are told to look ahead – look where you want your horse to go. The horse can feel your head move as well as the direction you are looking. Here’s why…

Demonstrating looking down while riding a horse.

Looking down

Take a moment now and look down. What do you feel? You should feel the muscles on the back of your neck stretching. You may also feel movement in your shoulders and possibly down your back. That’s a lot of movement!

When you are riding and you are looking down at your hands, at the path, at the horse’s feet, you are moving all those muscles and more. And the horse feels it. Some horses are more sensitive to the rider’s position and will react to this movement by breaking trot, slowing down, or drifting to the right or left depending on where the rider is looking.

Looking up

Looking up can change your balance by shifting your shoulders behind your hips and causing you to lean back – even if it is ever so slightly. This shift affects your seat and your horse’s movement. Some horses may take this as a driving cue and speed up!

Demonstrating how looking to the right changes the body position on a horse.

Right or Left

Yes, we want to look to the right or left when we want our horse to go in that direction. Turning the head also turns the shoulders, torso, hips, and legs. This tells the horse to move in that direction. We see our horses drift with our riders when they are looking at their parents – who are taking pictures, or are watching the other riders – especially when we are playing games. When asked “why did your horse go there?” the response is usually “because she wanted to” but rarely, “because I was looking that way.”

Once our riders have learned that the horse will follow the movement of their head as well as their seat and reins, their riding improves dramatically.

The next time you ride, think about it – where are you looking?

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.