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Visualize Your Way to Becoming a Better Rider

Learn more about how to become a better rider. Photo: Canva Pro

As a rider, you must be able to use your arms, legs, hands, and seat independently of each other. It’s often easier said than done to control your body and translate theoretical understanding into practical application. Some riders have a more natural talent than others, which can be frustrating if you find it difficult. The good news is that you can train yourself to improve. By practicing coordination through visualization, there’s a good chance you can make what your trainer tells you work in the saddle.

VISUALIZE YOUR RIDING

The key to coordinating your movements is first and foremost to imagine how each part of your body should work. In other words, you should first train your body awareness without being on the horse.

When you visualize, don’t picture how your riding looks to others. Instead, try to recall the sensations you feel in your body when you ride. For example, start with your back: Where should it be positioned for the center of gravity to align correctly with the horse's? Which muscles should you feel engaging? Then try to imagine what you need to do with your hands, then your legs, and finally your feet. Once you’ve focused on yourself, shift your thoughts to the horse. Recall as vividly as possible how it feels when the horse moves (more or less) perfectly beneath you. That feeling is crucial to find because it should be your fundamental goal.

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Read also:50 good advice for all horse people

To transfer these sensations to the saddle, try visualizing specific situations or exercises. For instance, imagine how you should use your body when the horse performs a halt, transitions, or jumps a particular obstacle. You can also try to visualize what to do if you and the horse lose balance. What can you do with your body to get back on track? If you find this difficult—perhaps because you don’t know how it should feel—you might benefit from practicing on a horse that can perform the exercise correctly. Maybe you have a trainer or a friend who will let you try their horse once or twice?

TURN THOUGHT INTO ACTION

When you can visualize the sensations, they will be easier to find when you’re in the saddle. Visualizing an exercise doesn’t mean you can get on the horse and perform it perfectly right away. You still need to start where you left off the last time you rode. However, by having visualized the sensation, you now know what you’re aiming for—and crucially, what to do with your body to achieve it. It will also help you stay calm when things don’t go as expected. In this way, visualization is a valuable tool for anticipating and overcoming your challenges in the saddle.

By imagining how your various body parts should work shortly before you mount the horse, it will be easier to anchor the sensations in your body once you’re in the saddle. The more you visualize and then practice it, the easier it will be to gain control over your movements—and in this way, you can turn thought into action.

Read also: Bucket List: Everything a Horse Enthusiast Should Try at Least Once

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