Don’t be so hard on yourself

I spent the weekend teaching some of my magic to several riders and all of them very different.

However one thing that united them was how terrible they thought they were! Hand on heart not one of them couldn’t ride, in fact they all rode really well but I think we increasingly compare ourselves to other people. Not just on social media but also others on our yard and most ridiculously to the Professionals. You know who doesn’t ride like Charlotte? Everyone else who isn’t Charlotte! The thing is we are all doing the best we can with the skills and information we have at this time. Great riders aren’t necessarily born great, yes some may be naturally gifted than others but I can guarantee that a lot of hard graft and training went on over the years to make them the way that are now.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with using other peoples’ success as a catalyst to improve your own performance but if this constant comparison is making you feel negative towards your own riding it’s time to turn it around.

I know a lot of it comes from wanting to do the best for your horse. We think that if we aren’t riding perfection and out competing at a high level our horse will not be happy. Now of course if you’re constantly jabbing on his mouth and bouncing on his back without a care for his comfort then you might want to address that but most riders I see aren’t doing those things-and you’re reading this so you are trying to improve.

I honestly don’t believe most horses care if they go competing every weekend or not. Of course some horses are of the nature they need to be kept busy, but most are quite happy being fed, grazing in a field and doing the odd bit of work in between cuddles with you. They also don’t really have a concept of the difference between Burghley and your local fun one day event. Yes the jumps are bigger but either way your horse had a fun day out, the height of fences is usually irrelevant-if he likes to jump big he’ll just jump big over the little ones anyway!

We also do not all have the same goals. If you’re goal is to do a bit of hacking and the odd clinic then what you do with your horse will be different to someone who is aiming for Badminton.

We are all at different points on our journey. This can be a tough one I think because the point on your journey does not necessarily correlate to the length of time you have been riding. We all have different things going on from our own and horses health, work, family, finances etc. that there is no comparison to how you are doing compared to the girl in the next stable. If you have a very busy job, husband, 3 kids and a tight budget, comparing yourself to the single, 9-5, high disposable income girl next door is doing yourself a disservice. Or if your horse has been on and off lame for 6 months comparing his progress to your friends’ horse that has barely had a scratch all year is unfair.

The thing that it really boils down to is why does it make you feel bad? Is it because you really want to be doing what that person is doing or is it because you think you should be doing it? These are two very different things and I have definitely done work on analysing this mind set myself.

If it because you think you should be at the competitions, or you should be working towards Travers and Half Pass but really deep down you’re happy with the odd local show and mastering an acceptable leg yield then you need to make peace with your own aspirations. There is nothing wrong with having seemingly smaller goals than other people. Your riding is your hobby, your bit of peace and head space and something you do for love; not another thing you need to over achieve at to impress other people.

However if the reason it makes you feel bad is because you do want to be achieving those things ask yourself what it would take to achieve it. What really goes on in the world of that girl on Social Media who is out winning competitions every weekend? I imagine she rides her horse 4-5 + times per week, has at least one if not more lessons per week, and maybe she also has her trainer rider her horse too. These are the things that have made her as good a rider as she is. She then of course also gives up those weekends to go to the competitions or uses work holidays to compete mid-week etc. Do you really want to do that? Do have the time and resources to do that? If you do and you really want it stop being envious and crack on with it! Get those lessons booked; make sure you’re riding consistently etc. If you’ve just read that and thought “phew that sounds like a lot of work I don’t want to do” accept that and be at peace with your decision that perhaps that isn’t actually your goal after all.

The most important thing to remember is “The Joy is in the Journey and not the Destination.”

I have asked more than one friend this question “what would you do if tomorrow everything clicked into place for you and your horse and you rode perfectly and won those competitions? What would you do then?” The answer every time…………………………..”Well I’d get another horse and start the process again!” So, we clearly don’t do it for the big wins, we do it for the feeling a continued little progress and picking ourselves up no matter how many times we get knocked down and the big wins are just the icing on the cake-that and I think we’ve clearly proven that all Equestrians are bonkers!!

So before you go comparing yourself to others and feeling yourself come up short, ask yourself if you really want what they have, the day in day out behind the scenes what they have. If you don’t stop comparing yourself unfavourably, and if you do; go out there and make it happen!


Analyse Your Riding

I do clinics and 121 sessions with riders analysing their position and looking at ways to help them use their bodies more effectively when they ride.


This is great but unfortunately this isn’t always an option for people. However there are still some things you can do to improve your riding without having access to a biomechanics trainer on the ground.


Firstly, video yourself. I do this alot. I just have a fairly cheap tripod for my phone, set it up before I get on, press record and yes I record my whole ride. Then when I’m done I edit it to cut out all the time I’m not in shot to take off irrelevant chunks and then maybe take off any bits I don’t feel need looking at say the first walk around or cool down at the end etc. Then I can go back and look at the bits I’m really interested in. For example what happens during transitions, what am I doing differently when the horse comes into a contact-did I change something when I lost it?


I find this really useful to do on my own and once you’ve got the hang of video editing-(I use iMovie) it doesn’t take that long.


Have a friend watch you. I also do this alot. They don’t have to be an instructor they just have to “say what they see”.


Perhaps ask them for feedback on things like.


Am I sat straight in the saddle?

Are my Shoulders, Hips and Heels in Alignment?

When my horse does x what am I doing?


This can be really useful as often something seemingly inconsequential can have a huge impact. For example I was watching my friend ride and her horse can throw her head around and become very strong in the Canter. I said “Do you know that you lift your outside hand up when you go into Canter usually just before she throws her head?” She tries again and keeps both hands down…….yep head flinging stopped! This was just an observation, I didn’t give her any great riding wisdom I just told her what I could see happening.


The same then happens for me and those bug bear Canter transitions. My friend “do you know your heels are by his hips and your leaning forward?”......No but now you mention it perhaps that’s where I was going wrong-yes that was were I was going wrong!


You can ask a friend to take pictures of you sat normally from the front, back and side and have a look at them later. The same with a video, ask someone to video you doing the thing you struggle with and when you watch it back don’t focus on what your horse is doing look at what you’re doing.

Ask yourself whether you are balanced & symmetrical or are there areas for improvement.


You only have to address the basics however quite often it’s the basics that are missing that is creating the problem.


Put Your Back (and front) into it

Last week we looked at Neutral and why it was so important.

This week I want to look at being equal front to back.

As mentioned last week, it is increasingly common to see riders leaning back to try and balance on a big trot or canter or equally leaning forward to prevent losing balance.

In order to be truly in balance with your horse and to remain with his stride you must be equal length front to back.


If you are leaning forward you will be ahead of him, and if you are leaning back you will be behind.

The thing is, staying equal front to back takes great core strength and control.

On your horse, have a scan of your body and ask yourself whether you can feel the muscles on the front of your body as well as the back of your body equally switched on.

A little trick I use with my clients is to draw the elbows into the sides and ask them to close their “back armpits”. This switches on the back muscles and then maintaining this feeling then on the front take the bottom rib closer to the top of the hips, this switches on the front. So cue yourself “close back armpits and bottom rib to hip”.


Try it and let me know if it helps!

Why Neutral?

We talk about neutral spine a lot and also alignment in terms of ear, shoulder, hip and heel. Whilst most riders are aware of it, it can kind of be left to go awry if we find it difficult to maintain, or if no one points out that we aren’t doing it after years of letting bad habits in.

The more I talk the riders the more I notice that many don’t actually know why we ride in neutral alignment.

Do you know why?

Often if I ask riders why they think we ride like this I get answers like “to keep the horse in balance, to remain over the strongest part of the horse and it keeps you more balanced….”

All true don’t get me wrong, but the thing is even at the highest levels (I’m always analysing the alignment at Grand Prix!) they aren’t all in this alignment so you start to think well if I can get the job done without being in this alignment then why should I struggle to try and achieve and maintain it?

I will add that the super elite as I would call them-Carl, Charlotte, Isabell etc. Are in this neutral alignment.

But back to why you should be.

Neutral Spine stacks up all of your joints on top of one another in perfect alignment which allows it a much stronger foundation upon which to absorb the movement of the horse beneath you without placing excessive strain on the ligaments, tendons and muscles as well as creating just one line of pull for gravity to act on rather than being out of alignment which gives gravity extra lines to pull and on well…….gravity might just get the better of you!

Basically it does keep you balanced but it also protects you from injury from just riding itself.

I see lots of riders with back pain, most commonly Dressage riders who when I watch ride will hollow or lean back during sitting trot in an attempt to stay balanced and let the horse go forwards when unfortunately what they are actually doing is putting the movement of half a ton of horse athlete through their lower back in extension and it’s not able to keep doing this without complaining eventually! It is also not the most effective way to get your horse to move forward with impulsion but that’s a different blog post.

So, I want you to go away and think about your alignment and how you think you stack up. This will be extremely useful for you if you do have any aches and pains but even if not you should still take this into consideration to ensure you are bullet proofing yourself further down the line.

If you want some help with this I offer 1 2  1 on horse assessments at £35 (local only or if you have 4+ riders a clinic could be arranged) and this can be combined with an off horse Biomechanics assessment of yourself for £60 as a package.

Every Step You Take, Every Move You Make

Your horse can feel you!

I’ve been doing a little more work with riders on horse lately. I’m not a riding instructor but what I do specialise in is how to make your body move and perform better and this case it means being able to do that whilst you are riding.


What I think has been the biggest lightbulb for most people is how just the tiniest movements can have an effect on your horse. I haven’t been teaching anything that on the surface looks dramatically different from how these ladies already ride but what I have taught them is how to use their body most effectively to get greater results with much less effort.

You see, your horse can feel a fly landing on it, so when give him a kick, or you pull on a rein etc. he can definitely feel it so more than likely he isn’t ignoring you if he doesn’t do exactly as you asked, he probably doesn’t understand the question.

Often what we think we are doing and what we actually doing can be a little different. Also, when we ride several times a week over many years we can get a little lazy with certain things and develop bad habits.

When I ask “do you think you are sat straight” people aren’t lying when they say yes, as however they are sat feels straight to them, and then when I move them to actually straight… feels wonky!

It turns out it’s the little things that actually make all the difference, like remaining straight yourself around turns and circles rather than leaning in. Just ask yourself next time you are riding if you really are doing this?

Perhaps as you make an upward or downward transition you lean forward or back, when in fact you should remain equal and strong front to back. You probably still get the transition (unless we are back at my Canter transition debacle!)But that transition could be more balanced if you stay balanced throughout too.

I know you are thinking …..This all sounds like more work when it fact what I’m doing now is working. Well yes I’m sure you are still getting circles, sideways, speed up and slow down and it feels relatively easy because you are used to doing it that way.

However, when you start to address the weaknesses and imbalances with a little time they won’t feel so difficult and in fact because you are more balanced your horse will be more balanced so in fact it will actually become easier than that previous default as you won’t have to balance your horse so much anymore!

Now this is just one of the little secrets we go through in my rider assessments, but if you want to learn some more I have spaces available at a clinic running at Long Lover Livery, Halifax HX3 7TJ.£35 per 45min private session on your own horse.  Hit reply if you would like a slot.

There is also just 1 slot available on my weekly Thursday Equestrian Fitness Class at my private studio located WN8 9QP. Let me know quick if you want it!