Are you a Thinking Rider?

In the dressage world, it’s common to have lesson anywhere from 1 to 5 days a week with a trainer.

There are many factors that fall into this type of decision - below are just a few reasons why a rider or trainer may choose how many lessons they will have:
  • Inexperienced rider
  • Inexperienced or young horse
  • The training barn that determines what is best for a rider and their horse
  • Preparing for a shows or other dedicated events

I rode diligently with one trainer for several years - showing up with my horse for a lesson a couple of times a week after practicing all that I learned the other days of the week. Although I had minor successes, I wasn’t advancing greatly and started losing confidence that I could become a better rider.

About that time, a fellow rider (much more accomplished than me), started asking me questions such as:

  • What are you thinking about when riding?
  • What “tools” do you have that you can use in different situations?
  • Why do we ask a horse to do a certain movement such as a “shoulder-in”?
  • What do different movements accomplish and how will they benefit the horse if done correctly?

These questions changed my riding from “following the teacher” to “riding the horse”!

My fellow rider and I started taking turns coaching each other in conjunction with continuing our lessons. Watching someone else ride and suggesting changes/improvements to that rider (such as more inside hind leg) and seeing the improvement of the horse and rider is a great learning tool.

I passionately believe in “eyes on the ground” and would not stop taking lessons! However, now when I go into a lesson, I let the instructor know what I would like to work on in the lesson (which helps them, as well).

The best “take-away” about being a Thinking Rider is that I enjoy the learning process so much more and now have a better partnership with the horse.

I am thinking about the balance and strength of the horse which helps determine the movements I will work on during my solo sessions. My personal preference now is to take fewer lessons, as I enjoy working and training on my own and bringing my learnings to the instructor when I do have a lesson.

I am always learning and thinking about my horse now as a "partner" rather than a "boss" and enjoying my rides so much more.