Winter is a great time for training, so it’s important to get the best out of it. Below I’m going to outline a few of my tips and tricks so you can be sure that you have the competitive edge in 2017:
Write down your lessons:
Try to write down everything you can remember from your training soon as you can after the session. If it’s more convenient, you could use the “Notes” app on your phone rather than a notepad. Write down what you did in the lesson, as well as the “take-home” points, because the method of how you reached a certain result is often more important than the result itself.
Let’s say you’re practicing getting a perfect turn onto the centrelines - the important point that you need to remember may be to turn off your outside leg more. However, before you even attempted this perfect turn, your instructor may have asked you to do some leg yields, five metre circles or shoulder-in, so your horse was on the aids. Note down the process that allowed you to produce that perfect turn.
This way you’re more likely to be able to re-create what you felt in lesson, at home.
Try to get somebody to video your lesson – if this isn’t an option, you can invest in tripods that follow you around the arena. Not only does this show you the overall ‘picture’ you and your horse is creating, but it also enables you to remember your instructor’s comments simply by re-watching the video. If you are videoed from behind it can also show any crookedness or unevenness in horse and rider.
It is very important that the rider is fit enough for the session – if you are not, you may find yourself limited very quickly and unable to ride effectively. Make sure you stay fit by exercising within the week; Pilates, attending the gym or going for a run are all time-efficient to maintain fitness. It’s also a good idea to pinpoint your weaknesses. Ask yourself throughout the session: Are you out of breath? Do you struggle to do sitting trot? Following these questions, you should adjust your fitness programme accordingly – if you are out of breath, you need to incorporate more “cardio” work (e.g: running) into your regime. If you have weak core muscles, activities like Pilates would be beneficial.
Furthermore, ensure your horse maintains his fitness by exercising him regularly and make sure he is capable of what is being asked. Both horse and rider heighten their risk of injury if they are unfit for the training required.
Condense your notes
Consider the important points from your lesson – is there a shorter way of remembering it? I’m going to use another example: imagine your trainer is telling you to “lift your horse’s head up when approaching the jump”… it’s a rather long sentence to remember.
Try making a catch-phrase – for this one I use the phrase “ears up!” If my horse’s ears are up in front of me, I know that her head has not dropped too low upon the approach. This may not make sense to other people, but to me it is a very efficient way of remembering my lessons when I’m out competing.
Identify some pointers
Another method I use is devising “tests” so I can feel or see when something is correct. In a lesson, I would feel for when my horse was going ‘correctly’, and identify some pointers so I can re-create that feeling at home. For example, to test whether my horse has the correct amount of inside bend, I look for the inside ‘corner’ of the eye – if I can see any more of my horse’s face than this then I know that the horse is over-bent. This allows me to judge the horse’s way of going myself so I can reproduce the results at home.
Do you have any other techniques that help you? Let me know!