4 Deceptively Simple Ways to Become the Best Rider You Can Be

Good riding depends on a lot of factors, some of them out of your control. Here’s how to maximize four things you *can* control to fast-track your progress.
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Elegant Western trainer Carol Metcalf lopes easily on a beautiful palomino horse.

Pro Carol Metcalf makes riding look easy. It's not, but with the help of four deceptively simple strategies, you'll definitely become the best rider you can be.

Riding like a pro is easier if you have a lot of natural talent and unlimited time and funds. But what if you don’t?

If you’re just a regular person—like me and my horsey friends—you can still become a superb rider simply by following these four tips and riding as often as you can.

Try it. I can’t guarantee you’ll look as elegant as pro Carol Metcalf, above. But I can guarantee you’ll be blown away by your progress. 

So—here’s what to do to become the best rider you can be:

1. Get video’d. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture is priceless. Watch a video of yourself riding and you’ll spot what you’re doing wrong, especially if you view it with your riding coach or a savvy friend.

Your horse’s weaknesses will also jump out—evasions or responses that you may not have noticed from the saddle.

Keep a library of videos over time…and watch your riding chops grow before your eyes.

[More: Video-coaching: how it improves your horsemanship.]

2. Warm up without stirrups. You’ve heard that stirrup-less riding is beneficial, and maybe you’ve done it a time or two. Here’s a better idea: Do it every time you ride. Do it as you’re warming your horse up at the walk, trot, and lope.

Make it habitual and it’ll build up your balance, solidify your independent seat, and boost your strength and stamina in the saddle. 

Promise!

[Here’s Help: Practice with these dropped-stirrup exercises.]

3. Visualize. Reined cow horse Hall of Famer Greg Ward used to scrutinize riders he admired. He didn’t have an instructor, so watching is how he learned.

Paint good pictures in your mind and then do it just like you see it…let your subconscious take over,” he said. 

Erin Taormino, the 2016 reserve open champion at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity, also capitalizes on her subconscious. At that futurity, she visualized her ideal fence run, then went on to deliver the quick, clean performance that earned her one of the highest scores ever recorded. 

Both these pros visualized to improve their riding; many others have as well, and so can you. It’s easy (just takes a little practice) and costs nothing. 

Check it out!

[More: Train your brain to boost your riding.]

4. Think light. Starting this instant, vow to be as light as possible in all your cueing. Strive to use the least pressure you can get away with—in your hands, through your legs—and still get the job done.

Robin Gollehon, a pro with over 200 world and national titles to her credit, says riding like this takes a conscious effort. “And if you don’t make that effort, you’re dulling your horse’s senses.” 

Plus not achieving your full potential as a rider.

[Find Out: Do you know what ‘soft’ really means when riding your horse?]

Hungry for more? Find extra tips on stirrup-less riding plus five more ride-better tips

And go for it!

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