unter/jumper rider Sloane Coles has certainly learned from the best. Not only did she grow up with two horse riding parents, she cut her teeth traveling the country and the world to train with some of the top names in the industry—from John and Beezie Madden to Mark Leone and Lauren Hough, and Belgian Olympian, Francois Mathy Sr.
Four years ago, Sloane decided to return to the place where she began: The Plains, Virgina, and the vast, rolling hills of Orange County hunt country where she works for top training facility, Spring Ledge Farm. And while, these days, Sloane is equally successful in the hunter and grand prix jumper rings, she hasn’t forgotten those important, early lessons she learned outside the arena, as a young rider growing up on horseback in Virginia’s bountiful countryside.
“I [still] try to get out as often as I can,” Sloane says, adding that the picture below was taken just last fall.
Here are 10 riding lessons Sloane Coles has learned from the hunt field:
1. Changing position.
Learning what to do with your weight and body as the different terrain and uphill/downhill gradient changes the balance of your horse.
2. How to ride at speed.
What to do with your body, weight, and control at a much faster pace than you would in the show ring.
3. Developing feel.
I learned to ride by the seat of my pants and worked at developing my natural feel in the field before I had many lessons in a ring.
4. Lean back!
When leaning back and riding down a hill, it’s more about using the entire body weight behind you. Believe it or not, this is about much more than leaning back—it’s about getting every ounce of your weight behind your heels. Creating this subtle shift is a huge advantage in triple combinations in the show ring as well as when simply protecting a horse’s front end.
5. Letting go of the distance.
In the field, it’s not a matter of looking for the perfect distance. What’s more important is concentrating on the obstacles behind the fence—ditch, stream or fallen tree—whatever it may be.
6. Gallop 101
Hunt riding has taught me how to truly gallop in all kinds of natural environments.
This one is simple, but if you don’t trust your horse, you aren’t going to get very far in this environment.
8. One-handed riding.
Riding with one hand on the rein (one of my personal favorites!).
9. Love of the Thoroughbred.
The American Thoroughbred’s natural ability to gallop and jump in an open field is unmatched.
10. Enjoying the moment.
There’s nothing like the thrill of being able to experience the beautiful countryside by horseback!
-Hunt photos courtesy of Sloane Coles.