The 10 Tips For Effortless Flatwork Riding:

I understand everyone rides a little differently and every horse has different confirmation and a different personality, so it is always important to adjust your riding technique in accordance with this. These 10 tips are my perception of what is important  to make your riding appear ‘effortless’.

1.    Am I relaxed?

Basically, if you are nervous and tense it will be mirrored in the horses movement and behaviour. So, as long as you have control of your horse… walk on the buckle, move your legs away from the saddle and shake the nerves away!

2.    Is my horse relaxed and focused?

Working your horse is so much harder when they are uptight and unfocussed. Walk on a loose rein and do some gentle bending in figure eights. Leg yielding is also a good way to focus the horse as it forces the horse to use it’s brain rather than thinking about everything else that is going on around them.

3.    Are my heals down?

Stretch your legs down and keep weight in your toes and your heals will follow.

4.    Am I sitting straight and evenly in the saddle?

Assess whether your weight is distributed evenly in the saddle and through your legs into the stirrups. Ensure your shoulders are square with the horses and then follow the horses movement.

5.    Are my hands upright and on even sides of the whither?

Keeping even hands without crossing over the whither is so important when riding. I have found that if you cross your hands over the whither you encourage ‘over bending’ in the horse that leads to confusion, rather than obtaining the response from the horse that you originally asked for.

6.    Is my horse moving with my hands?

When you move your hands inch by inch away from or towards the whither your horse should move either at the poll or neck in the direction you are guiding them, the body follows with guidance from your legs and seat.

Movements with your hands should be small… avoid pulling one arm right back to make your horse move one way or the other. If you’re not having success moving your horse around assess how you can use your legs and seat to assist as well.

7.    Are my hands and arms moving with my horse?

Whether it is walk, trot, canter or gallop (and all collections and extensions in between!) you should notice a different amount of head movement coming from the horse. To recognize this head movement and the changes in it between each gait is imperative to be able to follow that movement with your hands and arms, or more specifically… your elbows.

8.    Is my horse moving forward with a feather touch of my leg (or calf)!?

Moving forward from a light leg aid makes all communication through your aids easier. At the start of every ride ‘test’ how much your horse is moving off your leg by asking with a small squeeze and gradually increase the pressure until the horse moves. If your pressure is strong, do not reward the forward movement and start over again, do this until you are receiving a response from light pressure. When you have light pressure then reward your horse… go crazy with praise!

This may seem basic, but it is possibly the most important aspect of riding!

9.    Is my horse bending through their rib cage?

When riding circles keep your inside leg on and make sure your horse is bending through its whole body, not just it’s neck. This will help to supple your horse.

10. Have I got more weight on my legs than in my hand?

Always have more weight behind your leg (calves) than in your hand that your horse is motivated to work into the bridle and use the hindquarters. Avoid any desire to constantly pull on your horses mouth, it never achieves a good result!

ONE FINAL THING TO REMEMBER… Am I having fun?

The whole point of riding is to have fun and appreciate the amazing ability horses have to listen to us and work with us… if you’re not having fun you will have a cranky horse and most likely, will not progress with your riding.

Riding should be fun, so if you’re not enjoying it then put things in perspective and try not to get caught up in making everything work perfectly.

The best thing to do is to change your riding routine and ride somewhere or somehow that will make you happy!

10 Tip Recap:

  1. Relax yourself
  2. Relax your horse
  3. Heals down
  4. Sit up
  5. Even hands
  6. Horse following hands
  7. Hands following horse
  8. Forward Movement
  9. Horse Body Bend
  10. Legs push