Getting Un-Stuck

You’re STUCK!stuck-in-a-rut

You just can’t seem to get the timing for that flying change right, you can’t seem to quite make that jump from First Level to Second Level, you can’t quite see the striding for a 3′ course, but you can jump 2’6″ just fine, or you just can’t stop feeling anxious about the canter transitions, and your horse subsequently tenses up and bucks every time you ask for one! We’ve all been there, and will likely find ourselves there again at some time in the future, but how do you get UN-stuck? Read on, because I’m going to give you some powerful suggestions to help get you unstuck when you’re “in it”!

What does being Stuck mean?

Let’s say you have been polishing your 1st level Dressage movements for a couple of years now, and your instructor is encouraging you to start working towards 2nd level, but every time you attempt a shoulder in, you get tight, your horse braces against your hands, and you end up in a tug of war. No matter how much you try, you just can’t seem to get your body and your horse’s to cooperate for that all-important introduction to collection. You’re so frustrated that you’re about ready to resign yourself to staying at 1st level for the rest of your life.

Or maybe your horse bucked in a canter transition and got you off a few years ago, and now every time you ask for the canter depart you unconsciously tighten up, no matter how hard you try to relax and “go” with the transition, and your horse, sensing your tension gets tight in his back and it feels not only awful, but it make you anxious, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’ve actually stopped looking forward to your rides.

That’s being stuck… when something physical or mental is diverting you from having enjoyable and successful experiences with your horse, and you don’t see a way to work through or past it.

So how can you get past what seems like a hopelessly impossible obstacle to your advancement in your riding, and continue developing a joyful partnership with your horse? Well, first, it’s really key to identify the “thing” that is keeping you stuck. Is it physical? Is it mental? Is it a missing piece of your training? Is it a combination of these? Let’s explore what your thing might be, and see which ones resonate with you.

Being stuck due to Physical reasons

Let’s say you had an injury at some time in the past, and it’s left you with low back pain, which you guard against when you’re riding. It doesn’t really seem to affect your riding all that much, you can still do the basics as competently as you ever did, but when you ask for certain movements, it starts to twinge and you can’t quite commit your body fully to your horse’s movement. Over time your horse has gotten more and more sour about being ridden, but vet exams haven’t uncovered anything that could be causing your horse’s issues.

Or, maybe you have one leg that’s shorter than the other, and you can’t feel one of your seatbones, so that every time you try to ride a shoulder in or leg yield, you can do it really well in one direction, but it totally falls apart going the other direction.

Yet again, you might have gotten stiffer and stiffer with age, and you just don’t move the way you used to when you were younger, so you think there’s only so much that you can achieve now that you’ve reached a certain age.

If you’re physically stuck, I have some really good news for you. No matter what your challenges, YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAY STUCK! There are exercises that you can do that will improve your body for riding no matter how injured or tight, or uncomfortable your body is in the saddle. What are these exercises? They are riding sport-specific exercises that you can learn by downloading one of the free exercise guides on the Ridefit home page.

Being stuck Mentally

If you’ve ever had an accident on your horse, you know how it can affect your mind. You may not even be aware of feeling anxious, but when you come close to whatever you were doing when you had the accident, your body might tense up all on its own. Your mental state may be anywhere from unconscious tension to full-blown panic or dread. This can leave you seriously stuck and unable to fully enjoy your riding for a really long time, if it’s not consciously and energetically addressed.

How can you get unstuck mentally? I think these types of issues require a two-pronged approach. By working with a qualified sports/performance coach, you can learn mental exercises that will help you work through your level of anxiety, and by working with a riding fitness coach, you can build muscle memory into your body that can reduce the amount of physical tension your body will unconsciously create, by training it to relax in movement. Because of the unique nature of the riding sport, training the brain AND body together is a really effective way to get unstuck fast!

Being stuck because of Gaps in your Training

If you’re moving up to 3′ Hunters, and you can’t quite see your distances, taking a step back to cantering poles to train your eye for distances for a few weeks could really give you the bump you need to get unstuck.

Or, perhaps you aren’t truly bending your horse correctly before you ask for a shoulder-in, and that’s why your horse is bracing against you when you ask. Taking a step back to perfect riding a truly round and steady 10 meter circle might just give you the feel you need to make your shoulders-in successful.

If you feel stuck even when you’re taking lessons from your current instructor, maybe taking a clinic with someone completely different will give you some light-bulb moments that you can bring back to your regular lessons and “unstick” your progress. That different perspective can be all that we need to find breakthroughs.

If you’re anxious and nervous or tense when riding your own horse, borrowing a friend’s “packer” for some fun rides will most likely allow you to relax and enjoy the rides, which is sure to boost your confidence and give your brain the ability to relax again when you get back on your own horse. Taking lessons on a school horse can help, as well.

Don’t Stay Stuck!

Whatever the reason you are feeling stuck in your riding, you don’t have to stay there! There are many ways to “un-stick” yourself, if you are willing to get creative and think outside the box a little. For more ideas and tools for getting unstuck, a one-on-one strategy session can get you on the right track. You can schedule a free one-hour session here. We love helping riders break through their limitations and start reaching their goals!

Until then, ride fit!


Founder of Ridefit

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