I had one of my trainers that I absolutely adore tell me that she enjoys teaching me because I “actually give a crap and do my homework.”
Of course, I was flattered when she told me this, but I guiltily wanted to admit I hadn’t always been this way. It made me realize a lot of riders probably aren’t doing their “homework” either.
It is not enough to just show up to the barn, groom and tack our horse up, have our riding lesson, and go home and be done with it. I think a lot of riders may fall into this routine, and then get frustrated when they aren’t improving as quickly as they’d hoped. Or they realize their trainer may be getting a little impatient with them when he or she has had to stop and explain the same concept multiple times. Yes, learning takes time, and there is no replacement for time in the saddle. However, we can choose to continue our education when we aren’t in the saddle or even at the barn.
Doing our “homework” may look a little different for each individual rider. Chances are, at the end of your lesson your trainer will often reiterate what you’ve worked on, and that right there is the flashing red light as to what your homework is until your next lesson. Working in the time period between your lessons is a great way to improve upon what you’ve learned, but the learning doesn’t have to stop there.
We are luckily to live with such great access to technology and social media. Some of my favorite riders to follow on social media include: Denny Emerson at Tamarack Hill Farm, eventer and dressage rider Laine Ashker, Dressage Today Magazine, Heels Down Mag, and several others. All of these platforms help with continuing education for your riding, and the reading material and riding videos are almost endless.
Let’s also not forget another important aspect of homework: READING and WRITING. The amount of knowledge and information available in books, magazines, and online media is almost incomprehensible. Don’t understand something you went over in a lesson? There is certainly a book, article, or excerpt about it. Forgot how to do a standing wrap? There are several hundreds books that provide step-by-step directions and pictures to help you. If reading isn’t your thing, there are so many tutorial videos out there, too. Watching videos, even of your own rides, is a great visual learning tool.
I have also found it incredibly helpful to journal after I ride or have a lesson. Journaling helps us record what went well, what we need to work on, and what our goals are for the next ride. Writing about our rides also enables us to be able to reflect and think critically about concepts that were addressed.
Doing our homework isn’t just about mental exercise and learning, but it’s also about physical exercise, too. As riders, we expect our horses to be fit athletes and prepared to do what we ask of them. Why shouldn’t we hold ourselves to these same standards? Finding exercises that work for you to improve your riding are a vital part of a rider’s homework. Strength, stretching, and cardio exercises are all imperative and will help make you a stronger, fitter, and better partner for your horse.
It can be difficult to find the extra time to do our homework, however if we make it a priority, it is possible. Nothing can replace time in the saddle, but we can certainly enhance our education and knowledge by doing our homework and taking the initiative to never stop learning or wanting to improve. I also guarantee your trainer, barn staff, and even your horse will notice and appreciate your willingness and dedication to learn.