Making Improvements Despite Infrequent Lessons: Tips for Busy Equestrians
As equestrians, I think we can all agree that our happiest moments are those spent in the saddle. However, for any number of reasons, it may be the case that we are forced to decrease our lesson frequency. Like some of you, I am a busy college student juggling academics, internships, and time spent with friends and family. As a result, I am able to take a lesson once per week. Of course, I recognize that being able to ride at all is a wonderful privilege, and I am grateful that I am able to take lessons at all. My point is not to complain, but to share with you how I am able to maximize my time in and out of the saddle in order to keep improving as an equestrian despite not being able to ride as often. These tips are applicable to everyone, but especially helpful to those who find themselves a little short on barn time.
1. Reflect on your rides and identify your weaknesses.
My first tip for making progress is to think about your most recent rides and determine what exercises you are having trouble with. It can even be helpful to journal your thoughts after each lesson in order to look for recurring areas of difficulty. Regardless of whether you chose to write them out or simply make some mental notes, it is important to identify what your weaknesses are so you can make it a point to focus on them in your lessons.
2. Communicate with your trainer.
After you have determined what your weaknesses as a rider are, it is then important to let your trainer know what you feel is giving you trouble. This might be the most important tip because doing so is crucial to getting the most out of the lessons you are able to have. Trainers are often trying their best to coach you through these tricky areas already, but it never hurts to be explicit, especially if they are not able to see you as often. When you communicate this information to your trainer, they are better able to focus your lessons on the areas most necessary to your improvement. Therefore, your lessons, however few they might be, will become more productive and conducive in helping you achieve your goals.
3. Cross train.
Trust me, it’s a sport… so treat it like one! Improving yourself as an athlete goes hand in hand with improving yourself as a rider. A great way to make up for lost time in the saddle is to dedicate some time to fitness. It doesn’t particularly matter what form of cross training you do; the important thing is that you find another way of exercising that you enjoy and will continue doing long-term. The possibilities are truly endless, and you can even find great, free workouts that you can do at home on the internet (isn’t that amazing?!). If you would like to crosstrain in a way that is specifically meant to benefit equestrian athletes, TFE has some excellent resources! My personal favorite is the Equipment Free Core Strength Program because I can easily add a couple of the exercises on to my normal routine. Obviously, working out is not a substitute for riding, but it has the potential to increase your general fitness and thus help you feel stronger in the saddle.
4. Educate yourself on the sport.
Fortunately, there are so many resources available to us online and in print that we can use to become more knowledgeable about equestrian sport. A quick online search can yield recordings of Grand Prix, hunter derbies, equitation finals, and many more. It can be very helpful to watch videos of top riders competing because this provides a visual example of correct form. Additionally, there is a wide breadth of equestrian literature available. Whatever discipline you ride, there is a wealth of knowledge to be obtained from professionals in the field that can be found online or at the library. The best part is that you access it right from home and then apply what you learned next time you have the opportunity to take a lesson.
I hope you have found this blog post helpful! Just remember that the amount of lessons you are able to have do not define your worth as an equestrian. Continue to put in the work when you are able to ride, and take advantage of all the ways you can improve yourself when you aren’t able to make it to the barn. You CAN make progress under any circumstances!
TFE Ambassador Christine Wastilla