Do you ever find yourself mindlessly riding your horse; going through the motions, but not really improving either yourself or your horse?
I think it`s really easy to fall into this trap, and you lose your motivation and enjoyment for riding, especially with winter fast approaching. This is why I`m so keen for horse owners to continue having regular lessons; to keep bad habits at bay, and to keep a focus on training and improvement.
Other good motivators are competitions, the results inspire you to improve the weak areas, and to up your scores. You can get comfortable at a level though, and then if takes a bit of motivation to push yourself up a level – be it from Prelim to Novice, or Discovery to Newcomers.
I found myself in a bit of a rut with Otis earlier in the year, but embarking on a series of dressage lessons we`re making good progress at elementary level; feeling secure at it. The same goes for jumping; a few well-timed lessons and we`re jumping bigger and better.
With the horses that I school it can be easy to go through the motions, as I don`t compete them or have lessons on them, but what I try to do instead is get a clear plan in my head of what the owner`s want, of the horse`s level of training, and then I concoct a series of exercises and then develop them over a series of sessions, making them harder and adding in new exercises when one got stale. I think this approach can be difficult for a single horse owner, or a less experienced rider to develop without assistance.
One of my clients has recently discovered online dressage. She doesn`t have transport, has a veteran mare who has never travelled in her life, and the mare suffers from a heart murmur so it`s paramount that she doesn`t get over excited, which I`m sure a competition environment would do to her. This client has weekly lessons and we`ve done a lot of work on the flat, improving all aspects. As I`m sure you can imagine, it can be difficult to motivate yourselves sometimes when you don`t have a big goal or focus.
I thought online dressage sounded perfect, so got on board. This website runs monthly competitions from Prelim to Elementary. We plumped for the prelim class as it is their first dressage test and we wanted to get a good baseline. Over the next few weeks they practised hard, and then a couple of days before the end of October we organised to video the test. The arena had to be marked out, ensuring the letters were spaced correctly, and then the test was videoed from the letter C. Correct tack had to be worn, and you could be in show attire, but wearing bandages to prove that you weren`t at an actual show, or you could just be in smart informal clothes.
We did a couple of run throughs before being happy with the test, and it was sent off to be judged. They had a satisfactory result – 60%. The test was well judged I think, and the comments fair. For my rider, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and watching herself really helped her understand the marks and comments she`d received.
Now, she`s really focused on this month`s test and making the improvements suggested by both me and the judge. I think it`s done a huge amount to encourage them to up their game, as well as making competing more achievable for her – definitely something for you to consider if you ever find yourself getting stuck in a rut.