No matter the age or skill level of the rider, we can all learn something new and push ourselves to become better at our sport. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

Maximize the Off-Season: Five Ways to Get More From Your Lesson in 2017

We as riders tend to get into a comfortable routine when riding and we rarely deviate from normalcy. This can be especially true when it comes to our horseback riding lessons, especially during the off-season, no matter if we ride every day or just once a week. When asked to perform the same tasks over and over, day after day, horses, and even their riders will be less likely to ride outside of their comfort zone. This can often stand in the way from improving our skills or moving up to the next level. Listed below are a few ways that you can try something new or put in a little extra effort to take your lesson from average to amazing.

1. Use the Off-Season to Your Advantage

Although the weather is colder (or really cold in some parts of the country) and there aren’t as many shows to look forward to for a while, that doesn’t mean that we should slack on our riding skills. While the inclement weather makes it easier to shrug off barn time, efficient riders will use the off-season to gain momentum for the following year in a multitude of ways. One way to take advantage of off-season riding is to teach your horse a new event.

Sometimes during show season, we get so caught up in learning the pattern in tomorrow’s showmanship class that we don’t focus on improving and learning new skills. The winter time is perfect for teaching your horse flying lead changes or even starting groundwork practice to be showmanship ready in the spring. Having downtime can always be seen as an advantage when you make the most of it and spend it making progress for the next season.

2. Access Your Resources

layout pattern genericOne thing that happens when riders become complacent is to forget about their resources. Often times, hauling your horse to a different barn or arena for the day can imitate a horseshow-like experience for them by changing up their scenery. This is also a good way to ride with friends and other trainers while getting another perspective when it comes to the training process. Not only can you get different opinions when you ride in a different environment, but it can also be a handy test to see how much progress your horse has made.

Another major resource that riders can take advantage of in their lessons is practicing old patterns. Remember that one show where your horse did not listen exactly as planned and you’d give just about anything for a redo? Now is your chance to rework these patterns and measure your horse’s progress from then until now. The internet is filled with tons of old horse show patterns that will make sure you and your horse are up for any challenge.

3. Switch Things Up

When riders want to progress their skills, they can look to different horses to teach them different lessons. One timeless trick that some of the top trainers will tell you is to switch up your mount every so often. It can be unbelievable the things we can learn by riding horses of different levels and disciplines. Having a change of horse can teach you new things, just like having different riders can help your horse.

Speaking of switching things up, do not be afraid to change any aspect from the bit you typically ride in or the exercises that you perform. Any variable that can be done differently will only benefit you in the long run.

4. Listen Closely

generic trainer helpA wise man once said, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.” This is a very true statement that can be applied to horseback riding lessons. The reason we pay trainers is to hear their advice and hope that they can make us into better riders. All too often, students will get used to their trainer’s comments like “heels down” or “elbows tighter” and the words mean less every time. However, riders should try to keep in mind that we are paying our trainers to make us better and they typically do not tell us something for their benefit. If you trainer offers a piece of advice, it is more than likely that they want you to hear it and embrace it.

Another helpful tip is to watch, listen and learn everywhere you go. From lessons at your own barn to horse shows in general, we call all learn something from just simply listening. Some of the best horsemen can learn something from anyone, not matter when or where.

5. Spend More Time Bonding with Your Horse

love hug generic horse hug 2016 ApHC NationalsBesides putting new events on our horses, riders can also benefit from learning new tricks themselves. Some exercises that are helpful are dropping your stirrups, riding bareback or even the legendary dollar bill exercise. Dropping stirrups can aid in getting your heels down while maintaining your balance at the same time. This exercise can help horsemanship riders get a better feel in the saddle that will help them sit deeper and ride stronger.

Bareback riding while also sitting in the horsemanship position can also help with balance as it teaches riders to feel their horse and sit properly. Lastly, the dollar bill exercise can help any skill level of rider improve. This exercise is where a dollar bill can be placed under the knee to teach closer contact or between the rider’s body and elbow to help teach them to bring their elbows into their sides during various maneuvers. Either way, these exercises can seriously elevate a rider’s skills and their body position.

No matter the age or skill level of the rider, we can all learn something new and push ourselves to become better at our sport. We all strive to be the best at the event that we enjoy, but constantly pursuing a path of greatness will only benefit us in the long run.


About the Author: Samantha Armbruster is a 22-year-old student from Sunbury, Ohio who is currently pursuing a degree in Public Relations from Franklin University. She currently shows her Quarter Horse gelding, Oops I Am Good, also known as “Hudson”, on the Quarter Horse circuit. Samantha rides with Judd and Jennifer Paul/ Irongate Quarter Horses and loves being involved in the industry from lending a hand to the younger kids to learning from the top professionals. In 2016, Sam and her horse Hudson won an NSBA World Championship in Trail as well as a Quarter Horse Congress Championship in Showmanship.