How often do you have good intentions of making a change to one or 2 aspects of your riding yet continue to find that you fall back into the same old habits?
It’s not like you don’t want to make the changes, but in the heat of the moment, they are almost impossible to remember.
Dropping your eyes for example, drawing your heels up, tightening in the groin, look towards the next fence or stiffening your inside hand can all be habits that improve when you have someone to remind you, but at a competition, under stress or on your own, the annoying habits seem to sneak back in again.
Wouldn’t it be ideal to have a reminder system that keeps you on track even when your mind starts to drift onto other priorities?
This is where a “checklist” works well!
Let’s say you have a lesson with your instructor who keeps reminding you of the same 3 points – lift your chest, stretch your heels down and remember to keep breathing fully. 30 seconds later in your lesson you change rein and practice a halfhalt only to be reminded of the same 3 things again. Your frustration grows when you wonder how many reminders and how much instruction fees it’s going to take before you get it!!
What I used to find worked really well for me in the middle of a dressage test, a showjumping round or even certain parts of a lesson was to spend 5 seconds running through my checklist. I could remember to do that! My thinking would go something like this…
“At K, change the rein showing a few lengthening stride…chest up, heels down, breathe (and smile to relax!)…at X, start to change my bend and plan to hit the track just before M…chest up, heels down and breathe (and smile to relax!)…just before M working trot, check my rhythm, create bend for the corner, prepare to walk at C … chest up, heels down and breathe…and at C, walk”…you get the idea.
If you regularly practice running through your checklist of key things you want to remember or change about your riding, your old stumbling blocks will soon be established habits and you will be looking to create a new checklist.
And remember, you get out of your riding what you put in!