Quite why I am unable to recreate all the good work I do when my coach is standing in the middle of the manege has always been a bit of a mystery to me. It is a sad fact that I rarely put in as much physical effort when schooling alone and it is the encouragement of my trainer that tends to galvanise my resilience and fortitude, but instructor dependence can be soul destroying.
It seems that those riders that do not have an issue with this have trained their brain to retain the instruction and have a mind-set that creates a hugely powerful incentive to adopt certain behaviours or choices that are critical to training success. No matter what has gone on in their day they have the determination to put everything aside for the ride.
But how do you retain that instruction?
- Be realistic in your expectations. There is no point in ‘over-facing’ yourself (to steal a jumping phrase). When I recently experienced a great deal of stress due to my mother’s illness, it was near impossible to train as often as I would have liked. Thus creating even more anxiety for me. As a result I decided to try to ride every other night instead of 6 times a week. Making that decision eased the pressure. When I was striving for 6 rides I was getting maybe 2. Once I released the pressure I rode more. Bizarre but true!
- Inexperience makes a rider think mostly about the bad things. By concentrating your efforts on the positives and building on them you will see progression. Because I had not been riding as often as I needed to my horse became let’s say ‘a little argumentative’; purely down to lack of routine and sore muscles. I decided to go back to basics, do what is well within her physical capability; concentrate on bending and stretching. She’s happier now, and so am I.
- Success comes one ride at a time. Think about your last ride and all the good things about it. With each ride build upon the best bits of the last one. Make progression a goal and try not to get ‘stuck in a rut’ aimlessly trotting round in circles.
- Try not to react to problems with negative emotions – anger, disappointment, anxiety, impatience; my little horse and I got into many a ‘heated discussion’ because of my emotional reactions. By learning to take a deep breath, control my emotions and smile from the inside, I learned to control the negative emotions.
- Embrace constructive critique. Failing to execute a movement time and time again is not the end but the beginning, be thankful for the information that ‘doing it wrong’ brings, learn its lesson, be accepting that it is you that is potentially giving your horse a problem.
- Be consistent and correct. Put all your efforts into the very basics; establish the groundwork and be correct in your execution of every move, the corner, the circle, the halt-halt, the transition. Have in your mind how you would perform if a) a judge was watching or b) your instructor was with you. Just put in a little more effort!
- If your horse is being anything other than willing and co-operative consider what you might be doing to cause this. Only by proving your ability to be your horse’s guide will he confidently trust you. Those riders who appreciate that their horse is another living, breathing sentient being that has the grace to allow a rider on his back, are those whose sensitivity shows through in their riding.
- A small tip that helped me most in developing the correct mind-set for my training sessions is to think ‘Clock on – Clock off’. As I enter the arena, we are training and we clock on. As I exit the arena, we are done so we can clock off.
Try not to be despondent, it’s very normal, everyone experiences a lack of progress when working alone. The secret is to find some strategies that help you along at least a little so you can glean something positive to build on.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster