As a rider and a teacher, I like to be proactive instead of reactive; rather than fixing problems as they erupt, my approach is to prevent them by having a clear plan. This is the same way we should be riding our horses.
Setting myself and my students up for success means I always have a mental checklist of my expectations, a mental roadmap of where we are going. This checklist is universal, whether English or Western, and my priority is always going to be Safety, followed by beginning to develop a Feel, and finally heading towards Finesse.
There are 5 main areas that I focus on:
Rider Position: I don’t wait to teach this. Although I can seem persnickety, this is vital for safety. In addition, as we refine, it’s important we can stay out of our horse’s way and be as quiet in our body as possible in order to develop Feel and head towards Finesse. We never stop refining this.
- Rein Positions and Rein Management: A big issue with riders of any level is the ability to have effective and smooth rein management, having a feel for appropriate rein length and keeping the hands ‘in the box.’ We also need to understand what rein aids (there are 5) we should being using or avoiding, and when. This is important not only for safety for beginner riders, but for refinement.
- Horse Position: Understanding how to be subtle in positioning our horse both laterally and longitudinally is something we can do even as beginner riders in order to prevent problems.
- Footwork: The better we can get our basic foot control- backing, moving the front and hind feet independently, the safer we are and the better everything else gets as we advanced. This is where we really have the chance to develop Feel and Finesse, where everything is particular and controlled, before we get into motion.
- Patterns: Riders often lack focus in their riding. Even on a trailride, it’s important we use mental patterns to insure we are giving our horse a plan and being particular. Riding Point to Point, and using physical or imaginary markers helps us build precision and be proactive riders instead of reactive ones.
I finally decided to put my mental checklist into written form. I encourage students, riders, and teachers to write down their own. You can find mine HERE.
Next article, I want to share the checklist I use when students earn their spurs.
Keep riding the spiral path,