Below I have listed different things that have stuck out to me and have proven true this past month training with Anne and competing at WEF. Riding with Anne everyday was an incredible experience, but I learned even more from helping her in the schooling ring at the show and set jumps when watching her ride or teach lessons. Visualization is a very important tool, feeling is the most important but it's harder to grasp as quick. For me, if I see it done, I can do it the same way better than just being told how to do it. I suggest you watch your trainer ride your horse or teach lessons because it's a great way to absorb more valuable education off the horse. I hope the following key takeaways from riding with Anne this past month can help you and your horse improve your results as well!
- Feel the horse, ride him with “feeling”
- This is the most important key to riding, always listen to your horse and always give him smooth and clear communications so the conversation is continuous.
- If you feel your horse backing off at a jump ride him sit a little deeper and ride the jump more than usual but that doesn’t mean you have to continue riding strong. You should have a dialogue with your horse, constantly listening to him and feeling his every move. What else would you be doing up there? If you just just keep riding strong your horse will feel the difference in how you are riding and will begin to worry and tense up because he is not used to it. A deep seat should only be used when needed, having a consistently light seat keeps the horse's gait flowy and looks more natural, your horse will also be able to perform his best if you aren’t manufacturing every step for him, restraining him from his capabilities. Imagine you are free-jumping your horse and see his open flowy stride and reaching with his neck. Your ride should look fairly similar to this.
- Connection and Feeling is the most important focal point in riding
- A correct riding position is necessary to be able to communicate clear aids
- A stiff body will not send your horse clear aids.
- Connecting your body connects the dots; keep your arms elastic with short reins, your whole body rides your horse, your whole body should be working in rhythm with the horse.
- Adjustability is shown through feeling and training and is a technical skill to have.
- I have been focusing a lot on my flatwork this past fall and winter in preparation for the 2018 show season and one of my greatest accomplishments through this training is gaining more adjustability in riding my horse Chaz. This is great because we can now add one or even up to three strides in a line, and likewise we can take out a stride or two in a line as well. This definitely comes in handy in the jump offs. However, now that I have this very adjustable horse I have to focus on feeling and the clarity of my aids because he will listen to my body even more. This shows in my courses, I can easily add one too many strides in a line if I’m not on pace and relaxed with my body.
- Connecting to my last takeaway, upper-body awareness is important when gaining an adjustable horse. Sometimes just holding your upper-body is all you need to balance in a line. I’ve learned this in the show ring when I have one or two stride verticals, a nerve-racking part of a course for me because my horse is less careful at the verticals. If I just hold my upper body more and maintain my leg aids, my horse is more balanced and straight over the verticals.
- Exercises like knotting your reins for a correct contact and connection improves your feeling with the horse.
- The knot requires a longer arm and more give and take with the reins. This is the goal with a normal contact, the knotted reins adds correct muscle memory for contact with the horse.
- Halting after an exercise tests responsiveness, improves mental discipline, and requires “finishing” the jump.
- Having a plan for approach, take-off, jump, landing, and departure is necessary to have an accurate jump. I sometimes forget to “finish” the jump resulting in my horse slicing the jump, drifting, and even hitting a hind rail. The halt after an exercise is another way to train your mind to “finish” the jump.
- Use your back by stretching up for strength not your hands, in addition use your legs to make your horse lift through his back and sit on his hind end; don’t let him drag you on the forehand.
- Finish the jump!
- Approach each jump balanced, straight and forward. Flowing balanced pace and no extra fussing to find the perfect distance.
- As long as there is a balanced, off-the forehand, flowing pace with back to front impulsion the distance will be there. Also make sure you and your horse are straight when approaching the fence.
- Jump everything straight: eyes forward, body straight, legs on so there is support and a direction aid, auto release for contact and correct balance.
- Finish each jump straight, no mid-air slices for his of hind rails, make the horse listen to you for the direction. If you want to slice a jump, jump it starting on an angle, no pulling them mid-air.
- Relate every jump
- Every jump relates to another jump, whether its a line or a long approach.
- Realize your approach to the next jump is affected by your last jump.
- Is your horse more forward after an oxer?
- Is he more collected because of a vertical double you just did?
- Either you think about maintaining, lengthening or collecting the stride.
- Either plan for straightening, bending or turning.
- Plan your approach based on your horses weaknesses and strengths.
- Either keep outside leg if he bulges, or inside leg at the girth because he cuts in, or straight and balanced driving aids if he hesitates at jumps.
- Be prepared for it all at a show.
- Always keep listening to the announcer in case something changes in the order of go, scratches or even a course change.
- Ride like you do at home.
- If you start riding differently at the show than you do at home your performance jumping will be different and your horse will for sure notice it. Pretend you are doing a course your trainer made at home when you go into the ring, it really helps me keep the atmosphere low-pressure.
- Of course if you are on a greener/spookier horse a more confident, driving seat with autorelease and wide arms may be necessary but don’t immediately start your ride like that. When you tense up your horse tenses up. Don’t plan on riding defensively because you will become tense and your horse will feel that and tense up as well. A smart rider always has plan Bs in the back of their head, however just going into the ring focusing on improving weaknesses is how you get better; Not by saying “I have to beat 68 seconds to win” or “All I want is to go clear”. Thinking that will not help you be the best, executing a planned ride is how you win.
- Don’t forget about zoning in on your riding.
- One day at WEF when I was showing, I had great difficulty with focusing on just me and chaz in the course. I need to just focus on him, how he is feeling and how the course is riding, to continuously think about our ride and my plan for the rest of the course.
- Zoning IN mentally is key to a top show performance, not just logging the hours at the gym.
- I am a activity driven athlete, I can’t go a day without working out in someway! Therefore, I easily find motivation to workout daily and improve my fitness. I have found that I am mostly just focusing on improving my mental game of riding. I have attained a fit body and adjustable horse with a feeling of connection, what's left? The mentality to connect everything together.
- Counting strides in approach to each jump helps stay in the zone and be aware of your pace. Accomplishing this is a great result of mental discipline.
- Anne has reminded me of the mental discipline that is necessary to obtain and constantly work on in order to have a good result in any area of riding. She has also taught me it is not overnight result, we all have good days and bad days but if you practice mental discipline, with experience it will improve. Down here at WEF I recently had a poor result that has not reflected how we have been doing in practice lately. We all have those days, the important takeaway from those days is gaining experience in the show ring, learning from mistakes and making a new game plan for a better result next time.
- Awareness is necessary for improvement and education.
- If you do something right, understand how you did it right so you can do it again!
- Also, as Anne once said, “To be a great rider, you have to be aware of everything”, this speaks to me especially in the show ring because still I am constantly working on improving my awareness. If I got a seven instead of six in the first line of the course I should be aware enough to realize I am behind my planned pace.
- Patience is key, your partner is a horse not a machine.
- A give and take relationship is key to keeping your partner happy and willing to do as you ask. Make sure your praise is given enough and your corrections are not overdone. For example, don’t keep bending your horses neck once he soften and bends it. Another example is don’t keep playing with the bit to keep your horse “round”: first of all getting a horse round should be a back-to-front movement created from your leg not your hands, and second of all with overcorrection your horse will not know if he is doing the right thing or not.
- Make the most out of every exercise, jump, and flat-ride.
- Ask yourself continuously in your ride if what you are doing is improving you and your horse. Remember not to overdo exercises. For example, Is cantering your horse around the ring continuously really improving your ride? It may be if your trying to get him moving off your leg or it could be just overworking him and making him angry.
- Have a takeaway from each rider. What did your horse do really well, what was more challenging for him or you to do. What will you focus on improving next time, what will you ease off from doing. Vary each ride so your horse is constantly having to listen to your aids, if he knows the exercise well it probably won’t be as valuable to practice. In addition, trying new exercises is good for you because it requires more thinking and pushes you out of comfort zones.
I have gained immense knowledge and experience from training with Anne for February down in Wellington Florida while competing at WEF. I plan on using the knowledge I have attained, in my training at home and in the show ring this coming season. I was able to accomplish my goal of competing in the Low Junior Jumpers after finishing the High Child/Adult Jumpers on a high note by finishing Overall Champion my first weekend competing! Progress isn’t always reflected through class results, I may have not ribboned my first weekend competing in the Low Jrs, but I had a double-clear effort the first day placing fourteenth. On saturday I had the fastest four-falter round (3rd fastest time overall) and on Sunday I had a couple rails but Chaz was really honest and we had really smooth moments and finished the course very confidently! This has been an unforgettable experience, that I am so grateful to have had. Many people contributed to this successful month for me.
TFE Ambassador Martha Wyatt-Luth
15 yo competing as a 14 yo Junior Rider, Zone 2, USA
Jumpers, Equitation, Hunters