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Thinking Rider

When riding, especially dressage, I tend to operate off of instinct. In some ways I think this is good as it is very meditative and I’m really in the moment but in other ways I really need to work to think ahead a bit more and/or make a plan based off the horse I have when I start riding especially since I’m really training her and not riding a schoolmaster. The tough thing is how to do this.

How do I pull myself out of that meditative state and develop a plan using the tools that I’ve been learning in lessons. This is something I think will be a struggle for me for the long run and I know I need to develop a plan to work on improvement. Otherwise I end up on a 20 meter circle for half an hour trying one thing over and over and eventually taking a walk break when there is some improvement. In other words I get so bogged down by the minutia that I don’t actually create any development since I’m just drilling one thing trying to find my version of perfection which isn’t fair to Katai.

I think a way to start is to develop a plan on the way to the barn. Not anything set in stone since she could come out of her stall with a completely different feel each day but more of a loose set of guidelines for myself. I’m thinking something like;

Tonight after I warm up I’m going to start with a trot circle to the left and analyze how she feels, what she’s doing or not doing and then give myself permission to slow things down to a walk for a minute to develop a plan on what tool to use tonight to get her feeling better.


If she comes out tonight feeling like xyz I’ll be able to use this exercise to improve how she is/isn’t doing abc.


I think that having just a basic plan will be helpful. I’m also going to try to make it a goal to use more of the arena and learn some more patterns so that rather than picking at something little right from the beginning I can work on bigger picture things until she settles and then try to get some really good work. I think that by giving myself permission to slow things down and make sure that I’m in that mind set on my way to the barn I’ll be more likely to analyze more and think in a more developmental or strategic way.

Now I just have to put it to the test and see if it works!


  1. I hope it works for you! I call this getting in my 'trainer brain', and typically I'll make a plan or goal for each and every ride before I get on. A movement I want to work on, something we need to practice, a certain jump or line I want to perfect, etc. Then once I'm on the pony, I ask myself "How is he going? What does he need to go better? What tool or exercise will help me get him there?" Good luck!!

    1. Thank you for the feedback Alli! I was moderately successful last night but I think it will take awhile to get there for me so I'm going to try it again tonight :-)


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