As a rider, sometimes having a weekly lesson or a boarding at the trainer’s barn is not always an option. In this article, we are going to discuss what other avenues are out there to help continue your learning and keep your horse education moving forward. I must admit. I don’t have time to ride in a weekly lesson. I have a regular trainer who doesn’t even do jumping, coach me whenever she isn’t gallivanting around North America judging horse shows. If we are lucky I see her once a month. I believe education –simply said you should constantly be learning and challenging yourself if you plan on continuing to improve.
#1 Take a clinic
Clinicians have a way of pushing you because their job is to get results within the span of the clinic. They don’t generally get to know you enough to chit chat at the beginning of your lesson or consider some of your downfalls. They just get it done.
Recently, I was lucky to be able to attend the Lucinda Greene clinic here in Maple Ridge. I was riding horse who I had ridden once before the clinic and wasn’t exactly what I would say experienced over fences but was talented. Lucinda wasn’t gentle about what our downfalls were but her great ability to tell us when we sucked without saying it. She also had us do ditches, angles I had never done again, in Hunterland and she challenged us riders. She gave me information, exercises, and the guts to get my students to also do those things. I had material for 3 weeks for our more advanced riders in our program to keep challenging them.
#2 Try a new discipline
If you are in a remote area or don’t have time for weekly lessons trying signing up for a clinic even if its in a different discipline, then you are currently participating in. Different disciplines have a way of making changes in yourself and your horse by pushing you out of your comfort zone. A few months ago I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go with my riding so I tried a few different disciplines. One of them was cattle penning. Yep me the hunter rider in a western saddle and the only one with a helmet on. I was very awkward in that group to say the least. But funny enough, I learned a different way to teach and explain the spin. Although we certainly aren’t teaching our horses to spin on the haunches in Hunterland we do need to control the shoulders and I found when I used this exercise the horses and riders seemed to understand it better than the method we had used in the past. I also learned that chasing a cow around was quite fun! And gave my students a break from jumping and for the next couple of weeks we spent our lessons sharping our skills while chasing cows (FYI I lost about 20 lbs being a pretend cow!)
#3 Go to a show without your horse
Yep head to the show! Watch riders in the warm up ring – with their trainers – listen and watch to see what they have them do in the warm up ring to prepare for their class. Watch riders at your own level and see what they are doing and what their coaches are saying to them. Then head to a higher level and see what those riders are doing. Park yourself where you can hear what the coaches are saying. Just last week I was out a local schooling show and I was warming my students up and one of coaches said something that just resonated with me to explain to my students or a different way to think about it. I heard once a show someone say the difference between a good rider and a great rider is reaction time. The rider’s reaction to the horse’s movement. It could also me whether the rider gets over the fence or not. It’s not like I did realize that yes riders get better reaction time with practice but rather better results are achieved as the riders get quicker. It was mainly just a different way to think about and outlay it to my students.
The truth is I have 20 years of horse experience. I’ve broke hundreds of horses, ridden hundreds of horses and owned probably close to a hundred horses and every day in my life I am learning something new whether that is just talking to other horse professionals, auditing a clinic, watching a YouTube video, lunging a horse or listening to another coach. I am always looking for learning opportunities and they are everywhere so if I can keep finding them, then so can you.