If you’ve read Prepare to Improve Your Score you’ll have read how visualising yourself riding a dressage test can really help you to learn and improve it without riding your horse through it over and over again. It works for problem solving too. It’s easy to do, you can do it anywhere you like and best of all it’s free!
Whether your horse is on box rest, you ride at a riding school once a fortnight or you’re just between horses right now why not have a go at solving some problems before you even put a foot in the stirrup?
This isn’t as silly as it first sounds. Think of every time you’ve ridden a dressage test or a round of jumps. What would you have given to go straight back in and have another go? You know you’d have done better second time round. This way when you get on your horse it will be the second time you’ve worked on the problem even if it isn’t his.
Make sure when you do sit down to think about a problem you see yourself actually riding your horse. Not watching from a spectator’s perspective but sitting up there using your legs and your hands as you would if you were mounted.
This method works well but only if you see your own faults as well as your horse’s. You need to be honest. Anyone can picture perfection but it doesn’t help you improve your riding. See everything as it really happens.
If you ride with your reins too long or your hands down on your horse’s withers picture yourself trotting round your arena doing just that. Then imagine sitting back, lifting your hands up and holding a perfect rein contact. Imagine how that would feel and how it would transform him. See him sat back on his hocks and up off his shoulders. Hold that thought. You’ll need to remember it next time you ride.
Do you have trouble with your canter transitions? Give them some thought for five minutes. Does your horse fall into trot and rush off down the school? Be honest do you tip forward as you ask for trot? Take your lower leg off or fix your hands and arms against him? Imagine yourself sitting back, looking up and riding forward into a steady rein contact. Perhaps run through a couple of canter to walks in your mind which would make your horse really sit up and listen.
Break down each problem into its cause and its solution. Imagine yourself riding through it. If your horse is likely to put up a fight see it! If that’s what he does then that’s what you’ve sat down to work through. If you have to turn him on a circle to slow him down picture yourself doing it until you have the desired effect.
When you’ve seen the problem and pictured yourself sorting it out you’re allowed to see yourself riding it to perfection. That’s your goal and it’s easily achievable if you’re already prepared before you ride.
The more you sit and think about the way you ride the more constructive you’ll become. If your horse is out of action for a few weeks take time to think about all those niggling habits you’ve been meaning to sort out for months.
This method won’t cure your problems but it does help. When you finally get to ride your horse you’ll feel more confident, know what you want from him and how you’re going to tackle it. You’ll be ready for everything he throws at you. If you’ve had an enforced lay off you’ll get back on board without feeling as rusty. You’ll be better prepared and itching to put all that you’ve thought about into practice.
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.