Got Progress?

As a little follow up to my last posting about “grit”…

olivia pony4

Learning to ride well is often a lengthy, but rewarding process.

You can’t pay for an education.

You can shovel out cash, you can hire the best, but nobody can make you learn and retain it.

That’s up to you.

So how do you make real progress?

Progress is hard enough to come by with lots of time and effort put in.  If you only ride once a week, it’s pretty hard to make progress.  It’s possible, but it’s hard.  Half of your time may consist of just trying to remember all the stuff you had to do last time.  I know, and I remember, because as a kid I didn’t have my own horse, I only had weekly lessons. Not everyone has the privilege of having horses in their back yard or nearby that they can practice on in-between lessons.

But you can still improve, and if you have a horse and a good eye to watch you, get out there and practice!  Go for a ride and enjoy.

So here are few tips on how to make progress –

-Spend your week doing “invisible riding.”  That means walking with good posture, sitting at your computer with good posture, cooking with good posture, etc.  If you shuffle and slouch everywhere, and get up in the saddle for your once a week pop, you’re going to hear a lot of “shoulders back” and “look up.”  If you’re sick of hearing that, get yourself some “self carriage” and work on it through the week.  You may hear it much less if it becomes your goal through the week.

– spend some time getting in shape.  Exercise, get flexible, and get fit.  Help yourself ride better so you can sit the trot, post, canter, and even just get on and off your horse with fluidity.  I can’t stress this enough – riding is an athletic endeavour.  Yes, even just trail riding.  It takes strength and flexibility to put your foot in the stirrup and hoist yourself up there.  It takes core control to sit up straight and follow your horse’s movements.  It takes strong legs to post and sit correctly.  If you want to ride in balance and not rely on your horse’s mouth to keep you stable, then hit the gym, take a walk, shovel your pasture, whatever fitness you choose – it all makes a difference, and it all matters.

– give yourself some time.  Show up early for your lesson so you don’t lose 1/3 of it to catching your horse and tacking up.  If you only have an hour a week, and you want to pay for 15 minutes of a lesson, I suppose that’s up to you – but progress at 15 minutes of riding a week is pretty hard to make.  Maybe some people can – my skull happens to be a little thick and learning takes quite a bit of time for me, so if it’s that way for you, show up a bit early. If you can’t afford tons of lessons, you can also show up early or stay late to watch other lessons and learn vicariously through them, if it’s ok with your instructor or barn, of course.

You may also consider getting a little notebook to jot down what you learned in your lesson and spend some time through the week thinking on it.  That way the seeds of your new knowledge don’t just scatter into the breeze through your week.

And if you want major brownie points, pick up some horsey magazines, books, or dvd’s.  In this day and age, information is stupidly easy to come by.  It’s at your fingertips on your smart phone, on youtube, at the library; you can buy it at the store, you can find it used online, you can special order it, you can borrow it – just don’t steal it.  With the availability of media, there’s just no excuse for not learning, if learning is what you want to do.

I heard Buck say one time, and I don’t remember the exact wording so I’ll rephrase –  If people rode more, they’d have more success with their horses.  And if they had more success with their horses, they’d sure find a lot more time to ride.

So get out there and ride, learn, watch, read, and ask questions, because your education is all in your own hands.

Happy riding!

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