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Are you a passenger, or a rider? Or perhaps a trainer?


I'll let you think on that question for a moment, and while you are thinking about the type of equestrian you are, also think on whether you are happy being that type or if you perhaps want to be different?

Many of you will be the "Passenger type" maybe even without realising you are...Or perhaps you know you are the passenger type and are absolutely happy to be so.

You ride out with your horse and enjoy the time together, you ride with a loose rein, both you and the horse taking in the scenery and looking around. Perhaps a trot here and there, or a little gallop when you can. That's fine, especially when you do not wish to compete, but I hope some of the things I point out later will make you think a little and make you a little more rider-ish ... Because it will really help your horse.

Most competitive equestrians will think of themselves as a rider. Especially when in the arena or when doing a training ride. But also when you hack?  It's not that easy to be a rider... Especially this time of year when our horses get back to work and are a little fresh with the weather, maybe extra when they are clipped and they sometimes don't always do what we want them to do.

I have been reading a lot of posts lately of riders which got me thinking about who is in control, the horse, or the rider (passenger?)...  There is a good chance you do not realise you are a passenger more than you think. 

I'll ask you a few questions and let's see. When you ride...

  • Do you act or re-act? 
  • Do you always consciously guide the horse where you are going? 
  • Do you look ahead of you or at your horse?
  • Do you evaluate all your actions? 

When you are a rider you need to be pro-active: a rider will anticipate (look ahead), they plan (guide) and are (mostly) in control. Riders keep a consistent pace, they ride every transition to the best possible outcome and try and improve the next one.
Do you?

If you struggle with some issues like spooking, trouble with traffic or lack of control when your horse gets excited, chances are that you are more of a passenger than you realise, you might re-active as you are probably responding to what your horse does instead of pre-empting and taking charge in a calm and clear way.

Sometimes we are pro-active but in a wrong way: we see a tractor coming our way and we tense up, we shorten the reins and give our horse the wrong signal: danger ahead!! And guess what happens, our horse won't respond to the tractor that well… But what would be the correct pro-active response be?

A rider will take charge, in a calm and decisive manner: you will need to give confidence to your horse. I have got your back!  Check if there is anywhere nearby to pull in, signal the tractor driver to slow down or even stop, check your body language for conflictory signals and give the horse the correct aids to go where you want.

And this example is similar to many things you will encounter whilst out riding. From issues on the road, to horses cantering off in front of you, dangerous fluffy sheep, pheasants or doves that suddenly appear or fly off, evil branches or logs out to eat your horse.

Looking ahead, seeing what is on our path and the way we respond to what is ahead is crucial to how our horse responds.

Being in charge, focussed and pro-active requires a type of awareness that you need to train, self-discipline I'm afraid because otherwise, you'll revert to being re-active again...

Our subconscious is a huge part of being proactive and we need to realise we notice a lot more than we think! I try to split my awareness of things going on into 2 types, one focuses in and apart from that I also want to be aware of everything happening around me, without losing that inward focus. And you can do this as well.

Try to teach yourself to use one level of awareness to pay attention to what you and your horse are doing: you check your posture, bad habits, and for your horse you check pace, balance, use of back and so on. And then you have another level of awareness that can focus outward: on the road you are taking, markers, any obstacles, other riders around you.

If you learn to ride this way you can "multi-task" and you will not have to feel like you are juggling several balls in the air and are about to drop them all. You can become more confident, and your horse will notice you have a different perspective on everything you encounter. Your horse will benefit as it will have less stress and less risk of injury, and you will be able to train more effectively, which in turn will help you achieve your goals.

And then there is another level to being a rider, when you become the "trainer". 

A trainer rides their horse as part of a plan, it is not necessarily about having fun in riding just for the sake of enjoying the single ride (though that doesn't mean a trainer doesn't enjoy riding horses anymore, but there is another purpose to riding: improving the horse and the challenge of getting better and better each time). 

Each ride is part of a plan, which can be adapted and modified according to the needs. And the combined accumulative input will resort in a goal or achievement that was planned a while ago. Being a trainer involves doing each training with a purpose and a place in the training schedule, every training is evaluated and the plan possibly adjusted. The trainer is always seeing each ride as part of the "greater plan".

I hope I can help you transition from passenger, to rider to trainer! Feel free to contact me to do any ridden coached sessions, or have a face2face zoom chat. Of course we discuss a lot of these topics in the online coaching program "Endurance: Step by Step". You can find all this on the website: https://groenequestrian.co.uk/endurance-coaching

Please share if you feel this blog can help others as well!

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