The 5 things...
you should do every time you ride
If saddling up switches you on to autopilot, it’s time to check back into reality and take five. We’re not talking about minutes, we mean the five essential actions you should take every time you ride
1 Make simplep (and vital!) safety checks
Being safe, that’s a no brainer right? But how many times have you saddled up without checking your girth, doing up your chin strap or donning high-vis ahead of a hack? These are just three simple safety measures you can make every time you ride that could, at the very least, protect you from injury and, at most, save your life. Here’s a mental checklist to engrain on your brain: Check your girth Wear a riding hat and keep it securely fastened Check your tack for loose stitching or damage Check the weather forecast (especially in winter) Check your horse has four secure shoes Wear high-vis (there’s never an excuse not to) Tell someone where you’re going and for how long you’ll be gone Secure ID tags to you and your horse Charge your phone and take it with you
2 Havee a ggo at being mindful
Mindfulness is best described as a thought process that helps us pay attention to everything going on around us and within us. Think it’s all mumbo jumbo? Think again. By adopting mindfulness techniques, you can tap into a heightened sense of awareness. So why is this useful for riders? It’s useful because it means you might just spot or sense an issue, or recognise a change in your horse’s physical or mental well-being before it becomes a problem. It’ll also help you to enjoy your riding more. As Lisa Eklund, founder of The Mindful Equestrian in the US, explains, mindfulness is something you have to practise but it can help to transform your everyday life. You can begin being mindful in small ways off the horse at first, such as in queues at the supermarket checkout. “When the line isn’t moving, it’s one of those situations in which people can feel really frustrated and where mindfulness can help and be practised,” says Lisa. “You can use mindfulness to bring yourself back into the moment and be more peaceful. Pause and take slow and steady breaths. When you pause and breathe like this, the pausing gives you time to stop and think of a thoughtful response to a situation instead of reacting emotionally. It won’t make the line go any faster but it will give you time to be present in the moment and get some perspective.” The same approach can be applied to riding.
3 Make sure to plan
A little planning goes a long way and brings about a whole host of benefits that can help your riding, whatever your level, ability or discipline. So, what do we mean by ‘planning’? A pre-ride plan can be as simple as deciding what route to hack or jotting down the aim and structure of your next schooling session. It’s this simple act of planning that can help to focus your mind on what you want to achieve (which makes it more likely you’ll achieve it), stay on track for your goals and save you precious time. It can even help you to maintain control and navigate problems. For example, imagine you’re aim is to school your horse on Thursday evening. You have a dressage competition coming up and you need to work on those centre lines. Your plan might look like this (check out our notepad, right). However, if you fail to plan, you might get stuck or distracted at work, arrive at the yard to find the arena is packed with people, end up rushing to muck out before you ride (getting slowed down by chatting to people on the yard in the process) and end up riding for 30 minutes with absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Take our word for it, planning is good and feels great. Give it a try this week and see how much more effifficient you become. Your horse will thank you for it, and so will your future self.
4 Factor in a warm up
Warming up and cooling down, whether you’re a horse or a human, are essential if you want to avoid injury and get the most from your ridden session. But they’re often the first thing to get cut short and are certainly overlooked when it comes to hacking. Most of us are straight out of the yard gate and on our way. A simple warm up, for example, can begin at the point of grooming when the act of grooming itself, particularly over your horse’s back, can get his blood flowing. Once on board, it’s then key to start working gently and gradually, ideally on a loose rein in walk. Walk your horse in a long and low outline but, if you’re hacking, this might not be appropriate so consider whether five minutes in the school or in an area of your field would be the safest place to loosen him up. The next step is to move forward to a slow trot before using some basic lateral work to improve his flexibility, suppleness and the range of movement in his joints.
5 Take a moment to be grateful
Riding horses is a privilege but who thinks about that every time they hop on board? And did you know that a moment of gratitude could even help to improve your riding performance? Nope, we didn’t either, but a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology* revealed that gratitude can increase an athlete’s self-esteem, which is an important factor for peak performance. Olympic Games here we come! What’s more, taking stock of the benefits your horse brings to your life can also help you to feel happier and more relaxed. In fact, some experts believe in the transformative powers of keeping a gratitude journal, the simple process of writing down a few things you’re thankful for each day.
A moment’s gratitude can have a positive impact on your riding
Every time you ride… Before hacking, add these to your list…
Check all your tack’s stitching before you get in the saddle