Con­fi­dent Rider

Don’t ag­o­nize over the de­tails of cue­ing. In­stead, use your mind to de­velop three core qual­i­ties of a con­fi­dent, effective rider.

Horse & Rider - - CONTENTS -

Put ‘mind over me­chan­ics’ and ride bet­ter.

To ride your best, you must put mind over me­chan­ics. By that I mean, rather than ob­sess­ing over the me­chan­ics of cue­ing, use your brain­power to de­velop three essen­tials of good horse­man­ship: bal­ance, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and con­sis­tency.

I’ve done a lit­tle of ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing rein­ing, jump­ing, all-around, and more. Each dis­ci­pline has its own way of ask­ing a horse to do some­thing. In rein­ing you take your leg off to stop. In Western plea­sure you put your leg on. Ul­ti­mately, you can whis­tle Dixie to get a horse to stop—as long as you’re con­sis­tent in do­ing so.

Rid­ers of­ten con­fuse them­selves by con­tin­u­ally chang­ing their me­chan­ics based on what they most re­cently learned from a clinic or an ar­ti­cle. I tell my youths and non-pros, you don’t have to ride ex­actly like me. You can’t, any­way! We’re all dif­fer­ent. Just be con­sis­tent and use your head.

Me­chan­ics will vary, but you al­ways need bal­ance, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and con­sis­tency to be­come a con­fi­dent, effective rider. We’ll look at each of these qual­i­ties in turn.


Rid­ers are most con­fi­dent when they’re sit­ting in the mid­dle of the sad­dle and ev­ery­thing’s in bal­ance. Too of­ten, though, rid­ers tell me they can’t feel that bal­ance point. I don’t ac­cept that! I tell them, you walked into the arena from the park­ing lot and didn’t fall down once, or even wob­ble. You were trust­ing your bal­ance.

But for some rea­son, when they get in that sad­dle, they want to trust their eyes in­stead of their body and their bal­ance. So they look down. They lean this way and that. Their hands creep over to the side, con­fus­ing their horse.

In­stead, just re­lax and con­cen­trate on feel­ing your horse di­rectly un­der­neath you. Iden­tify your bal­ance point. You want your horse to feel con­fi­dent com­ing up un­der­neath you—and this will give you con­fi­dence, too.


As you pre­pare to ask your horse for some­thing, de­cide in ad­vance what you want to ac­com­plish. It’s like the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process in­volved in driv­ing. If I need to get a load of rock, for ex­am­ple, that tells me where I want to go, to the rock pile. And I know I’ll need my truck, too, not my sedan— that’s how I’m go­ing to get there.

Fur­ther­more, be­cause it’s been rain­ing and the roads are slick, I’m go­ing to drive a lit­tle slower—

that’s my speed.

So, with your horse, you must make those same de­ci­sions in ad­vance.

• Where do you want to go? This is the ma­neu­ver you plan to do or the direc­tion you’re go­ing to ride in.

• How are you go­ing to get there? This is your horse’s frame and your bal­ance. • And, fi­nally, at what

speed will you travel? These de­ci­sions dic­tate how you ride. When you plan them in ad­vance, you have the best chance of set­ting your­self and your horse up for suc­cess.


As I’ve said, all of us trainers have dif­fer­ent ways of train­ing a horse to do some­thing. We’re like math teach­ers, who may each use a dif­fer­ent method to teach you that 4 plus 4 equals 8. Some may use dots. Some may count on fin­gers. Some may use some other method. But what­ever the sys­tem, the an­swer is al­ways 8. That gives you con­fi­dence in math.

But if some days the an­swer is 5 and on other days it’s 7—and you’re pun­ished when­ever you don’t get it right—that would de­stroy your con­fi­dence in short or­der.

It’s the same with your horse. In­con­sis­tency is aw­ful for him! Whereas re­li­a­bil­ity that en­ables him al­ways to know what the right an­swer is builds his con­fi­dence and lets him learn.

The more con­sis­tent you can be with your horse, the more con­fi­dent he’ll be. And this, in turn, will build your own con­fi­dence.

Don’t look down at your horse to find your bal­ance. In­stead, sit in the cen­ter of your sad­dle and learn to feel for your bal­ance point with each stride—be­com­ing in the process a more con­fi­dent, effective rider.

Look­ing down (top) only de­stroys your bal­ance. Be­fore you be­gin any ma­neu­ver (top-right), plan what you’ll do, how you’ll frame your horse, and the speed at which you’ll ex­e­cute. Con­sis­tency in cue­ing (as for a stop, above) is more im­por­tant than which cue you use.

Devin War­ren, Frank­town, Colorado, has won nu­mer­ous rein­ing ti­tles from APHA and NRHA events. He trains reiners of all ages and coaches non-pro and youth rid­ers ( war­ren­rein­

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