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Five Ways To Turn A Bad Ride Around

dressage girl
Written by Andrea Parker

We’ve all been there, the bad ride that turns into a bad week of rides. When you’re having a challenging time in the saddle, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Here are five strategies to help you turn a bad ride, or a run of bad rides around.

#1 Have Gratitude

Remind yourself that even if you are having a bad ride, you are still lucky enough to be riding and that in itself is something to be grateful for. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget how lucky we are to have these incredible animals in our life.

Taking the time to feed your horse their favourite treat, give them a hug or scratch their favourite itchy spot can be a great way to help lighten things up.


#2 Remind Yourself How Far You’ve Come

Riding a tough sport from a mental standpoint as there is always at least one that you can be doing better if not a new skill to learn. When things are going well this is also one of the most exciting aspects of the sport, when you find a new gear in the trot or canter you know that there is still probably more to come.

But when I am struggling in my riding, I tend to feel as though I am a terrible rider who is stuck in a rut. While I am not the best or most talented rider in the world, the reality is that I have made huge progress over the past eight years. I bet the same is true for you too.

Looking at older videos and photos is a great way of helping to make it crystal clear just how much progress you have made.

#3 Try Something Different

They say change is as good as a holiday, and that’s why my third tip for turning a bad ride around is to try something different. Whether you jump on bareback, gallop down the beach, go for a trail ride or set up some trot poles in the school, sometimes the best way to get yourself out of a riding rut is to take the pressure off, change your focus and shake things up.

beach ride

#4 Develop A Pre-Ride Routine To Help Create Positive Focus

Earlier this year I noticed that on the days where I took a little extra time to focus and get organised at the start of the ride were more productive. I was doing two key things, coming up with a plan for my ride and taking a couple of moments to relax. The relaxation aspect is particularly important for me as I find I can sometimes carry stress from work into my riding, and that just isn’t fair on Nonie or me.

In a session with my performance coach I built upon my fairly simple strategy to relax that has now become mostly automatic. In addition to helping me relax it also helps me to start to direct focus towards my position.

#5 Get Journaling

Reflecting on your riding is an important part of progressing and developing. When things aren’t going well, the ability to reflect can help you figure out exactly what is happening and where things are going wrong. Journaling can be a great tool for facilitating a reflective process.

I started journaling consistently in the middle of last year based on an exercise from Tonya Johnston’s ‘Inside your ride’. I should do this after each ride as it only takes a few minutes, but in reality I do it 2-3 times/week. I really love Tonya’s prompts for journaling as they force you to focus not only on what aspects of the ride could be improved, but also the area’s in your ride that went well. Grab yourself a journal

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About the author


Andrea Parker

Andrea is an Adult Amateur dressage rider who competes at medium level on her 13-year-old mare Mon Ami. Andrea shares her journey through the equestrian world on her blog The Sand Arena Ballerina and is working on an equestrian podcast called Equestrian Pulse.