Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

If you aren't dying, keep riding.

One of the amazing trainers I had the honour of training under a few years ago has recently published a book titled "How Good Riders Get Good" which discusses his views on how the external factors and choices beyond sheer riding ability make the difference between an average rider and a good one.

While his book focuses on the elite of the elite, I've noticed many of the same trends in my riders who are mostly either just starting out on their competitive careers or coming back to riding after some time off.   And over the last six months or so, some of them (Chelsea, Emily - till she moved way far away BOO -, Amy, Brena, Rowan, Kennedy...   To name a few :) have totally skyrocketed in their abilities.  The before and after is SO gratifying to see.  What interests me is what makes some riders progress so much more consistently than others.  One of the obvious factors is time - all of these riders ride at least twice/week, some as many as four or five times.  But lots of riders do that, and they don't all increase at that rate (although given the size of my school - I'm pretty happy with the percentage that do!  ;-)

So I thought I'd take a few blog posts over the next couple weeks to examine the traits that I feel make the difference in these riders.  I know which daemons I fight the most -- and I suspect most of the reriders have a more extreme version of some of the same issues *g*.   But the first step to improving is acknowledging the problem!  So have fun, consider carefully, and - as always, comments very welcome :)

For today's post, the concept is so very simple -- if you want to ride well, RIDE.   Every chance you get.  On any horse that's safe for your abilities; whether you like them or not :)    I was teaching a dressage lesson the other day and the rider was working *really* hard.  So I asked if she was dying (aka did she need a break).  "No, I'm ok."  And my immediate response: "well then, keep riding."  Which got a laugh out of her and then made me think a bit because I wasn't entirely joking.  She's one of my more determined students, so I can say things like that to her, but the idea is totally valid.  If you want to improve, you have to push past your comfort zone -- which means keep going even when it's hard.

And I'll tell you -- as one looking after a barn full of horses, 9 of which are mine -- some days it IS hard.   There are *often* days that I'm too tired or too busy to ride and it's brutal.  But almost always I drag myself into the saddle anyways.   And about %80 of the time I feel better afterwards than I did before.  I'll admit that mid-winter I get slightly less dedicated and will occasionally offer my horse to students to ride instead (and being well-trained and very determined themselves will *always* take the extra ride :) but that goes away pretty fast when show season rolls along.   hahaha Currently my horse is being ridden 6 days/week.  And she's being *ridden* -- not just sat on.  So if it has to be a short ride, that's ok -- because half an hour where Every. Step. Counts.  is always going to be far more effective than a two-hour stroll around the ring.

Now don't get me wrong - if you are *actually* sick or injured - then maybe you need a break.  Riding with one leg in a cast is not going to help anything!  But tired or sore or nqr -- maybe, just maybe, riding will help :)   I usually find it does.

And if it's too cold to ride.  Or too wet.  Or too windy (yes I've heard that!  More on creative excuses in another post :).  Or you're too tired.  Or too busy.  Then that's totally fine.  But realize that it makes you a fair-weather rider, and I've yet to ever hear of that designation being applied to one of the best.   If riding is a fun hobby to do when the world is good, that's totally kewl - and there is a LARGE group of people to whom this applies.  Love it.  Have fun.  The end.   But these are not the people these posts target.

And for those still reading - it's that simple.  If you want to ride, ride.   If you're determined enough, you can make it happen.   Make friends and carpool if you don't have a car.  There are lots of ways to earn extra rides if you lack the finances (my situation forever!)  Don't turn down any offer just because the horse isn't your favourite to ride -- every horse has something to teach every rider; if you're not learning from him, you're not listening to what he's teaching.  Any chance you get, ride.


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