Many people want to get the most out of every riding lesson and improve every lesson. While these are grand ambitions, to accomplish them, you will need to understand the many different ways to achieve them.

We first have to understand what improvement means with our horses. Simply doing better with the movements they are working on every day is not possible. A horse’s body takes time to adjust, build strength, and be in balance. This can sometimes take months for seemingly simple things. So, let’s look at some things we can improve regularly with our horses.

Things to improve on:

All the movements            Relationship                            Balance

Strength                           Conditioning                             Problem Solving

Your understanding          The horse’s understanding      Lightness

Confidence                       Technique                                Learning about your horse

Patience                           Knowledge                               Feel

Timing                              Communication                        Trust

Many more things can be added to this list, and as long as one is attempted to be improved, you have improved.

An improvement can be that you were able to keep your horse in the same place as yesterday, allowing your horse to condition their body as needed and develop muscle memory for you and your horse. Waiting for the right time is difficult for many riders.

You can still have improvement with a “bad ride.” You may have learned something about your horse; you may have learned something about yourself. Perhaps you learned how to solve a particular problem. When problems arise and we have a bad day, we need to look at it like a puzzle and try to figure it out. Try not to stress about it; take your time, break it down, and enjoy the process of helping your horse. Some problems take more than just a single ride to solve.

One of the most important things to remember about your riding lessons is that you will figure out most of what you learn in a lesson after the lesson when riding on your own. Just because something may not have made sense during the lesson does not mean it was a waste. Some concepts are more complex to grasp than others. Sometimes, we need the quietness of riding alone to get a feel for them – a time when you do not have to listen to anyone but your horse. A time that you can truly focus. Other times, you may have nailed it in the lesson, and when you tried it on your own without the assistance of your instructor, it did not work. Now is the time when you really learn how to do it! When practicing on your own, in a quiet arena, making mistake after mistake. You know you fully understand it when you get it on your own.

How you view success is critical and can drastically affect your quality of life. I like to remind myself of Thomas Edison, who, when asked by a reporter about his invention of the lightbulb, replied, “What was it like to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I did not fail 1,000 times; it was an invention of 1,000 steps.”

Remember, there are always steps to take to reach your goals. To achieve your goal of piaffe or a flying change, you do not simply start trying to do them. Years of work are required to develop the horse so it can physically do the maneuvers easily and with mental and physical relaxation. You are, in fact, working on piaffe and flying changes by doing shoulder-in, perfecting circles, and doing tempo changes. Understanding how what you do today connects to future training is important.

No matter how your ride goes, please do your best to leave your horse in a place where they can be successful tomorrow.


Student Jo B. with her horse Levi