First of all: I don’t think anyone can do without a good instructor, we all need a pair of eyes on the ground and a voice that can connect ‘feel’ with ‘action’ to improve your riding.
I know there are a lot of riders that are working without an instructor as we speak, not because they think they know it all or that they feel they don’t need any help. This blog is meant for those riders. The ones who always want to improve.
Riders are without a decent instructor because they can’t find anyone who fits their needs. Maybe you are looking for an instructor who is open to clicker training and you don’t know the right person yet. Some barns here don’t allow outside instructors, it can be a financial issue, you don’t have a possibility to haul your horse to a lesson nearby, you don’t have an arena and so on.
Make a video while you are riding. It doesn’t have to be long, you can just film a specific exercise. You can warm up your horse and just do a few transitions walk-canter or only a few steps shoulder in to review at home. Or if you’re training for a competition you can video the exercises one at a time.
Go home, remember that you are learning and that your goal is to improve yourself. Watch the video as if it was your best friend riding. What would you say to her if she would have asked you for some tips to improve? Be kind because you’re the biggest critic of yourself. Phrase it in a positive way. Write your tips down and say: “I can improve my riding by … [fill in the blank]”. For every tip for improvement try to write down a compliment too.
If you are nervous about filming and watching it back: just film a few minutes so you can give your best. You will be surprised that sometimes if feels much clumsier than it looks! Try it, you might surprise yourself.
#2 Ask a friend
Your friend doesn’t have to be an instructor he or she can be ‘your eyes on the ground’. Ask your friend to tell you specific things that you want to know. Be specific and ask her to tell you if the hind hooves are landing in the imprint of the front hooves or stepping over. If you want to improve your feel ask your friend to say “yes” every time your horse lifts up his outer hind leg. Just simple exercises like that can help improve your riding enormously and you don’t need an instructor to help you with those.
#3 Watch and learn
If you don’t have the opportunity to take lessons yourself try to watch other riders as much as possible. Go to a clinic or buy a dvd of your favourite instructor out there.
If you are a visual person you can watch videos of your favourite rider just before you go riding yourself. When you are riding pretend to be that rider. It will immediately improve your riding.
Make a video of you riding with and without having watched your favourite rider and find out if you can see the difference.
#4 Practise at home
There are a lot of good exercises that help riders improve without being on a horse. Sitting on a yoga ball while working on your pc can help your balance. There are some good instructors with a Centered Riding background who made good dvd’s to help riders, Wendy Murdoch and the Murdoch Method for instance.
Have fun riding!