Inexpensive ways to improve riding skills, from skipping stirrups to watching the pros

  • The cost of living crisis is starting to hit, but there are inexpensive ways to improve your riding skills without breaking the bank. It’s hard to cut costs when it comes to looking after our horses, so the first thing to do when money is tight is to invest in our own progress in the saddle. However, with a little creativity and organization, it is possible to maintain an upward driving trajectory. More home training will be rewarded in the competition arena, even if show outings need to be restricted as the budget is under pressure.

    Video your riding

    With lessons or training sessions typically costing upwards of £40, the outlay for weekly instruction may be temporarily beyond budget. If you have to limit yourself to less frequent instruction, see if you can find someone to film all the lessons you have so you can easily look back and repeat the exercises in an effort to perfect them. Video of your workouts can also provide great visual feedback by showing your strengths and weaknesses when you don’t have a coach on the field to help.



    Riding without stirrups

    If it’s good enough for Pippa Funnell, it’s definitely good enough for the rest of us. Pippa often rides without stirrups to help her position. Riding without stirrups improves feeling, balance and flexibility in the saddle. Done frequently, this will help increase your awareness of your own body and build your core strength as you learn to ride in time and in sync with the movement of the horse, without relying on the reins.

    Distance lessons

    It’s something that took off during lockdown, although it’s become less popular since the ability to have face-to-face teaching was reinstated. However, the technology is there and many coaches are familiar with the concept. Trainers may be willing to charge less than an in-person lesson as it saves their time and travel costs. Or you can ask your instructor if they would be happy to review a shorter video of your workout at home, provide feedback and suggestions on what to work on, at a lower price than a full lesson. This way they don’t completely lose your business and you retain many of the benefits of their instruction.

    Ride more horses

    If you have time, consider approaching horse owners who know you and your riding abilities to see if they would be willing to have you exercise their horses. It won’t line your own pockets, but there are huge benefits to riding a variety of horses, as well as building your core strength through increased hours in the saddle.

    Another option is to hire a racehorse trainer if you are capable enough. It may not help you if you want to improve your dressage seat, but it is a great workout for event riders, general riding fitness, and equestrianism.

    Cycling can improve your fitness, pace judgment and balance

    Keep a diary

    It sounds simple, but by recording what you do each day, how your horse has gone, and what you’re ultimately aiming for in the season, you’ll be able to form a more organized plan on your progress. When money is not an issue, one can fall into the trap of randomly doing expensive outings, such as cross-country skiing lessons, galloping outings, shows, etc. However, a progression schedule means you can formulate a targeted plan to spend the money when you need it rather than just when you want it.

    Find good local hacking routes

    This may require a small financial outlay on some Ordnance Survey maps or other apps to help you plan your route. However, rather than paying to take a cross-country lesson, you can often do a good deal of basic hacking training, if you find some good routes. Weaving your way over logs, through hollows and ditches, in and out of trees, in water, on different terrains – ideally uphill and downhill – while hacking will teach you a lot about the crossing the country, for you and your horse. nothing.

    A lot of training can be done on hacking

    Most of us don’t have great hacking routes right on our doorstep, so you might have to box and walk a short distance to avoid riding on busy roads. A good map on your phone will allow you to get the most out of your area and improve your physical condition and that of your horse.

    watch and learn

    One of the best ways to improve is to watch the pros play. Andrew Nicholson said he never took a course, but he watched how the best riders did it and tried to emulate them. Go to shows and stand near the warm-up area as well as the main arena or cross-country course. Note how the best riders warm up, how they treat their horses, what they do that surprises you, what impresses you, and try to incorporate that into your own routines.

    And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many top racers are approachable and if you ask for advice at a convenient time (not right after they’ve had three poles) they’re usually happy to help.

    Phone apps

    Training apps are much cheaper than clinics or recruiting places, although you may have to pay a small fee for apps that offer training services. What they provide varies wildly, from simply recording your run and tracking your progress to training “with” the likes of Carl Hester. Here are three workout apps to consider:

    Ridely: this is specially designed to help runners improve their training and achieve their goals. There are hundreds of exercises filmed with top pilots such as Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. You also get a calendar to keep track of everything riding, from shoeing to show results, to allow for perfect planning. And you can set goals and the actions needed to get there.

    Equilab: This is a popular application suitable for all disciplines, used by 1m runners. Its slogan is “the world’s largest training community for equestrians”. It tracks your speed, step, distance and route, and also records your ride, keeps track of stable management and workout patterns. Often when we overestimate how much time we spent galloping to school, the app will tell you not only how many minutes, but which leg you spent the most time on. It also lets you share your trip with others, such as fellow runners, a trainer, and a vet, and allows them to track your ride remotely, a handy safety feature.

    Dressage TestPro and TestPro British Eventing are two interactive apps to help runners easily learn their tests. It caters to multiple learning styles, visual, audio and kinesthetic. Learn some tests, try more advanced moves and practice them!

    Relax with a good book or listen to a podcast

    Dust off the equestrian books on your shelves. Many of us have how-to guides written by Pippa Funnell, Reiner Klimke and Lynn Russell, which we rarely refer to due to the hectic life and the internet. But many of these guides are full of great riding drills and worthwhile drills. Be sure to read one chapter a week and try to incorporate your learnings into a practice session.

    Here are three recommendations, available at Amazon Where eBay:

    Or if you don’t have time to sit and read, but spend time in the car or doing chores around the house or yard, there are plenty of horse riding podcasts that focus on workout tips and exercises you can download. and listen on the go. Here are a few :

    There are also “on horseback” podcasts designed to be listened to as you train your horse, acting as if you have a trainer in your ear to help direct what to focus on and how to do specific exercises. Typically, these can involve a very small load, but they’re an inexpensive way to keep your training focused if you’re struggling to do it without a trainer present.

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  • Clyde P. Johnson