If you want to make the most of your horse riding instruction and learn to ride horses really well in the shortest amount of time possible, here are a few secrets just for you:
Multiplying Your Practice Time
Learning to ride horseback, like anything else, is a skill that comes with practice. But horse riding instruction can be expensive and often your riding time is limited to one or twice a week, usually on weekends. So how can you practice enough to get really good when you are limited to an hour or two a week? After all, it is said that to become good at any skill you need to have put in about 500 hours of practice …and about 3000 hours to become a master! Well, by that rule, with a weekly horse riding instruction session of 1 hour, it would take you about 9 and a half years to get good! I don’t know about you but that seems an awfully long time. Fortunately there are some ways you can multiply the effects of your horse riding instruction that won’t cost you a fortune. And you’ll become a better horse rider in the process.
The Riding School in Your Mind
You can use mental rehearsal to practice horse back riding in your mind! The reason little girls get so good at riding so fast is partly due to the fact that they obsess about horses and horse riding and spend so much of their freetime thinking about horse riding, talking about horses, reading equestrian books and day dreaming about being on horseback. This is the perfect recipe for getting good at something. Added to good instruction of course! So when you have your riding lessons, make sure you pay full attention. Be right in the moment and be aware of how your body feels as you ride the horse. Really observe everything about being on horse back as you ride around the ménage or riding school area. Listen to the sounds of the horses hooves, its breathing, the clink of the harness or the clicks and taps of its shoes as its feet occasionally clip one another. Notice any smells in the air and store all this sensory information in your memory banks. As soon as you get home, make some notes about the major things you learnt in your lesson that day, and any things that you have to work on for next week. Also note down any observations you had during your lesson — even if they seem unrelated to riding — like the fact your instructor had a coffee stain in the shape of Kansas on her T-shirt. This will all help to lock in your lesson. Then at odd times when you can, just sit quietly and replay your horse riding lesson in your mind’s eye. Go through it again and again. Feel yourself back in the saddle, holding the reins, your feet in the stirrups. And relive that lesson — only in your imagination you can do it better. When you are practising in your mind’s eye, you can be a perfect rider, totally confident and skillful.
The ideal time to practice mental rehearsal is last thing at night as you go to sleep, and first thing in the morning when you wake up. But the more you do it, the better it is. You should see rapid improvements in your horse riding ability as you go to your weekly instruction classes.
In the Hoofsteps of the Masters
Another secret to accelerating the affects of your horse riding instruction is to copy great riders. There are 3 simple ways to do this.
1. Get a mentor.
You can watch someone who is a great rider at your riding school and try and copy the way they ride. Just spend some time observing them around horses. Be like an actor rehearsing for a part. Gradually build up your inner picture of what it is to be that person. Notice everything about the way they get on a horse, how they sit in the saddle, the way they hold the reins. Look closely at the set of their face. Are they tense or relaxed? Are they comfortable enough to smile? Notice their breathing… and imagine yourself getting on a horse, sitting in the saddle, holding the reins, and breathing, just like that great rider. Befriend that person if you can and get their advice and tips… otherwise just observe them secretly and absorb what they know about riding confidently.
2. Create an equestrian book library.
Your mind will benefit by absorbing the principles of riding, so plunder your local library for books on horses and riding, or create your own personal library of equestrian books to which you can refer frequently. Seeing pictures of people riding will fill your mind with the images of ‘how to ride’ that it needs. Reading actual written instructions can help you cement the lessons you are taught at your horse riding instruction sessions. If you have fallen in love with horses and with horse riding, you’ll be happy to read all about them — it will fuel your passion and excitement and your mind will gallop to help you achieve what you want: to become a great horse rider.
3. Watch DVDs of great horse riders.
When I first learnt to ride, one of my heroes was a famous British showjumper called Harvey Smith. I used to think he was brilliant and wanted to be like him, so I would always watch the showjumping on TV and cheer him on and imagine I was him. I also bought or was given a set of Pony Club videos. These showed some Pony Club kids getting riding instruction in a beautiful part of Great Britain. And again I used to imagine I was there, riding my horse over those training poles. The more opportunities you get to see and observe horse riding, the more information your mind has to work with. By feeding your brain with movies of good horse riding you help form a mental map of what great riding is all about. If you have a particular equestrian hero, you can create an imaginary meeting with that person, in which you have them stand in front of you with their back turned to you, and the you ‘step inside’ them and ‘become’ that person. You imagine looking out of their eyes, feeling what they feel, hearing what they hear. And you get on your hero’s horse and you ride that horse as your hero. This little exercise has been used successfully to accelerate ability in many fields of endeavor — so why don’t you use it to accelerate your horse riding instruction?