Ready to re-discover what riding is all about? Here’s how to rev-up your riding routine with seven fun activities.
1. Try Horse Agility
Think agility classes are only for over-active Collie dogs? Think again! Horse agility is gaining in popularity across the UK, with clubs springing up faster than you can say ‘jump that hoop’.
Popular with owners of the smaller breeds (it’s a great way to keep a miniature Shetland fit and entertained), as well as everyday riders, more and more owners are appreciating the relationship-boosting benefits of training your horse to go in, around, over and through a range of obstacles. It’s a great way to spook-proof your horse!
2. Hop On A Schoolmaster
You can give your horse a well deserved day off and still rejuvenate your riding this time on another horse. If you can’t afford a lesson on a trained schoolmaster, a friend’s horse will do, it’s all about variety. A different horse gives a different perspective, regardless of his standard, you can always learn something.
You’ll soon find out if you’ve got into bad habits with your position or aids. Or perhaps your horse has become lazy, because you’ve been micro-managing his faults. If you’re riding a schoolmaster you’ll hopefully experience what it’s really meant to feel like.
Be Open-minded and always try to take something from the ride, good or bad even if it’s to feel thankful for your own horse and to better appreciate his qualities.
3. Discover Prix Caprilli
What better way to liven up dressage if you’re a little wild at heart than by adding jumps? Named after Italian rider Frederico Caprilli, the father of the forward jumping seat, it’s a fab way to have fun with your horse. Tests are judged on movement, impulsion, submission and riding, and the jumps simply shouldn’t interrupt the flow of your performance.
4. Discover Parelli
The idea behind their world-famous program? Improving the horse/human relationship using simple groundwork techniques.
It brings the best out of you and your horse, it’s not a horse training programme but a people training one! Horses already know how to behave Parelli teaches us to read this behaviour and understand it.
We recommend you go and see a Parelli demo and just see if it’s for you. Being able to read a horse’s body language will open up a whole new world for you and your horse.
5. Try Trec
Fancy a fresh perspective on your schooling routine? Trec may be a fast-growing sport in itself, but the principles of this obstacle and orienteering-based activity can be applied to any discipline. “It’s all about basic equitation, If you’d like your horse to be polite, listening and moving off the leg, Trec can help.
It’s easy to try a taste of Trec at home. Make a corridor on the ground with a pair of poles placed end to end for competition it would be a mere 50cm wide, but start yours at 80cm. Riding through the corridor is a good way of making sure your horse is going forwards and straight. Try it at walk before progressing to trot and then canter. Look ahead, without focusing on the poles, and keep your bodyweight even. If dressage judges have been commenting that your horse canters ‘quarters-in’, this will highlight the problem. If you ride through anything other than dead straight, you’ll clatter those poles.
6. Go Western
Relax your riding style by going Western! You’ll soon discover it’s not just for the cowboys.
Western can be enjoyed by anyone with any horse, from Highlands to cobs and Arabs to Haflingers, and with a range of classes to choose from, including in-hand showing and reining, there’s something for everyone. The laid-back style of Western riding is mirrored in the discipline’s community, so if you’re looking for something to try where you’ll feel welcome and accepted this is the discipline for you.
7. Hit The Trail
What better way to blow away the cobwebs than with an exhilarating hack? But be adventurous by boxing up and riding somewhere totally new. The whole benefit of riding is being able to go out and enjoy the countryside. A change of scenery is so good for stuffy horses who don’t want to go forwards.
Ask horsey friends if they’d be willing to share transport with you to a new location. But before you strike out in a different direction, Annette suggests a few safety considerations.
First, make sure you’ve got full control in an enclosed arena, and go with suitable brakes, not your dressage tack, and keep the group small.
If your horse tends to be nervy or nappy, find a friend with a rock-steady horse to join you. You’ll both enjoy some time in the great outdoors, whether it’s at the beach, over farmland (with the permission of the owner), along new bridleways or just exploring somewhere you haven’t been before nearer home.