Horses can’t talk. Of course, it sounds obvious, but so many of us forget this when we’re around them. The only way a horse can tell us something is by his actions. Whether he’s relaxed, happy, frightened or in pain, he’ll try to communicate this in the only way he can.
A good rider constantly strives to understand this and learn his language. The art of good riding is seeing things from the horse’s point of view.
You don’t have to be an owner to be a good rider so don’t worry if you don’t have your own horse. Riders who regularly ride at riding schools or on borrowed horses are often more adaptable and confident on different horses than those who get used to only ever riding the same animal.
Also, if you don’t have the financial constraints of horse ownership, there’s often more money available for valuable lessons, lectures and demos. When horse owners get strapped for cash, it’s often that all-important training session with a good instructor that falls by the wayside.
Finally, good riders come in all shapes and sizes and ride in varying styles. Mark Todd, Michael Peace and Lester Piggot are all top-class horsemen – although they’re all very different.
How To Be A Good Rider
- Ask yourself why you ride and why you enjoy horses. Does it challenge you? Do you thrive on the adrenaline of speed or competition, or do you just love hacking?
- Once you’ve established your reasons for riding, it’s easier to keep your goals within your level of enjoyment.
- Set yourself a riding goal and consult your instructor about the steps you should take to achieve it.
- Don’t let anyone persuade you to do something that makes you uncomfortable or goes against your instincts. It could shatter yor confidence.
- Question everything you’re told, but dismiss nothing. Don’t blindly accept advice from friends, instructors, books or magazines because you think it’s someone more knowledgable. Think it through and ask yourself whether the logic is sound.
- Don’t worry about your mistakes – everybody makes them. See them as an excellent opportunity to learn.
- Find out as much as you can about how the horse’s mind works and how he thinks. Understanding his nature is the key to a great partnership.
- Get yourself fit to ride. You owe it to your horse to be supple and well balanced and he’ll find a fit rider much easier to carry. If you have a fairly inactive lifestyle, this could mean taking up jogging or going to the gym. Yoga and Pilates classes also benefit riders as they improve balance.
- Ride as many different horses as you can – especially if you have your own faithful mount on whom you feel safe. Have a lesson at a riding school or swap horses with a friend for a hack.
- Book a lunge lesson and ask the instructor to spend half an hour working on you, not the horse. This will do wonders for your position, balance and flexibility.
- Get yourself an idol! Choose a rider you really admire and study their riding style and try to fathom what makes them so great. It could be a jockey, show jumper, dressage champion or eventer depending on your preference – they’re all good, just different. Image that you’re riding like your hero and try to deal with situations as they would. You’ll find yourself sitting taller, smiling broadly and your confidence will soar!
A Good Rider…
Appreciates that a horse is a flight animal and will naturally want to run or shy from perceived threads.
Understands that punishing a horse for his natural reactions is futile.
Praises the horse’s efforts regularly and forgives his mistakes (just as he does you).
Treats all horses as individuals and knows their limits.
Is aware of their own body and its effect on the horse.
Is calm, patient, observant and prepared to spend time learning.