Schooling my horse at night after work, I’m not always the most motivated or focused. That’s when bad habits creep into my riding, like rounding my shoulders during flatwork. When I catch myself doing this, I envision Olympic show jumper McLain Ward warming up one of his horses. He has a meticulously correct position and sits taller than any other rider I know. With that image in my head, I immediately bring my shoulders back and drop more weight into my stirrups. That, in turn, makes me think about the rest of my position, so I can fix any other issues that I’ve let creep in without realizing it.
Two of our experts in this issue strongly recommend watching or visualizing other riders in action. Grand prix rider Charlie Jayne suggests that you study videos of riders who are suited to your specific situation—whose body type is most similar to yours and who excel in the areas that you want to improve the most (p. 20). For instance, as a young rider, Charlie struggled to control his tall frame, so he watched videos of riders like Olympians Ian Millar and Ludger Beerbaum because of their similar stature. Of Ian, he says, “I watched over and over again how he moved his body while riding a course, especially on takeoff.”
Top hunter and equitation pro Geoff Teall talks about how to develop a great eye (p. 28). One essential building block is convincing yourself that it’s possible. To do that, he says to ask yourself, “Who do I know who is most clearly an example of a confident rider?” With that picture in your mind, the next time you ride, try to imitate that person. “You’ll be surprised by what a difference this makes,” he says. (After that, you’ll work to develop your sense of line and pace.)
While Charlie and Geoff talk about picturing riders and trying to copy them, our columnist Olympic eventer Jim Wofford also refers to imitating good riders, though in a slightly different context (p. 12). Jim talks about the importance of knowing and studying famous riders who came before you so you can learn from their mistakes. “Learning to ride takes a long time; it takes a really long time if you do not take advantage of the mistakes of others,” he says. You can do this by watching old videos, reading books by great riders or auditing or taking one of their clinics.
Trying to emulate these riders is such a simple, inexpensive way of improving your riding. If you try it, let me know how it goes and who you choose as your go-to rider to watch ( firstname.lastname@example.org).