e have all experienced this phenomenon: one day, you and your horse feel so in sync, you nail your ride, and leave the barn feeling confident. The next day, however, you can’t replicate it. You feel disjointed and like you’re a different rider than the day before. It can be very frustrating and can set us down a road of negative emotions, which impedes our riding further.
There are real, practical ways to improve your consistency in the saddle. Contrary to what we may think, it’s not all left up to chance and things we can't control (the weather, your trainer's mood, how other horses in the ring are behaving around you).
Our latest Masterclass instructor, Tonya Johnston, MA, is an expert in helping riders build the skills and routines to become consistent in the saddle - whether riding at home, in clinics, in lessons, or at shows. Consistency is important for every rider to work on improving, regardless of level, because it will allow you to improve your skills as a rider and become more confident with repeatable success.
1. Understand What Is In Your Control - And What's Not
When a situation begins to feel chaotic (a windy day at a horse show, a lesson where your horse is acting up, or a crowded warm up ring before a big class), it's important to break down the environment into things that are in your control and things that aren't.
"If you're really good riding at home, as so many people are, and then you get to the show and find that your riding is out of whack, it's likely that you've allowed a bunch of things out of your control (the judge's opinion, perhaps? or the score you're going to get?) impact your nerves and your ability to ride your plan," says Tonya.
2. Develop Detailed Pre-Ride Routines
Routines are imperative for increasing your consistency in the saddle, and Tonya explains that most top riders have a personalized pre-ride routine that they may not even be aware that they have! Having a reliable pre-ride routine will allow you to trust that you are prepared for your ride, so that you can truly be in the moment once you’re in the saddle. It also puts your energy to good use by focusing on something productive, instead of worrying about the future.
"What are you doing to prepare yourself in the hour before a lesson, or the night before the horse show?
Sports psychologists have looked at how routines affect athletes and they show that time and time again, consistency is something that is improved when you use a routine. When you think about it, we don't suddenly feed our horse something different because you're at a horse show. The same concept applies to you."
What are you doing to prepare yourself in the hour before a lesson, or the night before the horse show?
3. The Desire to Do Well Can Throw You Off
Have you ever gotten to a horse show or a lesson where you really, really want to do well, and that destiny becomes all you can think about? This can lead us down an anticipatory thought pattern, like 'I bet my horse is going to spook at the judge when I go in the ring' or 'I bet I'm going to miss the distance to the oxer like I always do!' Sometimes, the desire to do well is the thing we need to turn off, as counter-intuitive as it may seem!
"That desire to do well can sometimes lead us to constantly think about the future. It can create an effect where we're trying to predict the future. So what I suggest is, don't think about the future, it's out of your control anyway. Put that energy into what you can do right now. Put the energy you have into performing tasks that are going to be valuable, that you're connected to, that are tried and true for you."
Master your mindset this year and become a more consistent rider with Tonya Johnston's Masterclass: