By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
Riding our horses can be just like the rest of our life. We reach a Plateau or a period or state of little or no growth or a time where progress ceases. We find this in our relationships and work. So does this happen to everyone? YES. You will be glad to know that at some point in our riding careers, we all find a period of time where we need to stop and assess if we are making progress. So I would like to share with you all some of the ways I boost myself and those I coach to get beyond these plateau’s we might encounter.
1) Take a lesson once a month. Find someone in your area and go take a lesson. See what they can offer you. Each riding coach has different experiences and can offer you something new that might just help you elevate your skills to the next level.
2) Take a lesson from a different coach. Pick another person every few months and go take a lesson with a new coach. I encourage my students to go ride in clinics and with other coaches. Sometimes they bring something back to me that they learned and sometimes just hearing the same type of information but from someone else — it clicks and everything starts to fall in place and you advance as a rider.
3) Ride your horse bareback for a month. Do everything you would normally do but do it bareback and improve your balance, leg strength and communication with your horse. When I mean do everything I mean walk, trot, canter/lope, side pass, leg yields…. you get the idea. Okay….if a month is too much, then try it for a week or a weekend. I am currently on a week-long plan where I must ride at least one horse a day bareback.
4) Feel the footfalls. This is my number go to answer for everyone who tells me they have reached a plateau in their riding. Get on your horse and ride for 15 minutes and call out each footfall…if you miss one, start again. That is the true sign of an advanced rider…knowing where each foot is at any given time. If you work on this, and I do regularly, it reminds me that I have a long way to go with my learning and improving.
5) Go to a 2, 3, or 4 day clinic. So there are no clinics in your local area. Pack up the horse and the truck and trailer and go on that road trip. Drive to the clinic you want to ride in and learn. That entire experience is so enlightening. How good is your relationship with your horse. Can you travel two days and then ride for 4 days and then go back home for two days. The key is go take that clinic you know will advance your skills. Find that person who can push you beyond where you are currently — you and your horse will be glad you did.
6) Join a local riding club or organization. Find others to ride with on a regular basis. When you ride together you normally pick up some new things along the way and it can help you advance your skills.
7) Cross train yourself. If you are a western rider…go learn to ride English. If you are an English rider, spend a few weeks in a western saddle.
8) Cross train your horse. So your horse is great in cutting. Then get out and do some Cowboy or Western Dressage. Have a nice jumper, try sorting a few cows. You get the idea. Step out of your riding comfort zone and try a new discipline.
9) Read and take up new challenges on your own time to advance your riding. For example, ride every exercise listed in my Responsive Riding book, ride all the exercises in Jec Aristotle Ballou’s 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider, also ride all the exercises in 101 Arena Exercises for Horse & Rider. There are many books and my library is extensive and I keep trying more and more of the exercises I find.
10) Ride different horses. Sure, we all have our own horse to ride, but find a friend who will let you ride his or her horse. Learn to feel how a different horse works. This is where we learn so much and advance ourselves. If your family has a few horses…ride all of them and learn what each wants to teach you.
Below I include quite a few of the different organizations with horse activities that might be of interest to some of you. I like what each of these organizations provide and at least one of them is likely to give you ideas on how to advance your horsemanship and riding beyond this plateau you might be experiencing.
Cowboy Dressage — Click Here
American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) — Click Here
Charles Wilhelm’s Ultimate Super Horse Challenge — Click Here
United States Team Penning Association — Click Here
Ranch Sorting (Great for Families) — Click Here
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).