World Equestrian Games silver medallist Harry Meade shares some helpful analogies for riders to aid their training across the disciplines
Imagine you are…
1. A waitress serving drinks
When riding your horse imagine you are a waitress serving drinks from a tray. Ride with your hands out in front of you and ensure they are both level so as not to ‘spill the drinks’. Also make sure that you are sitting square and proud in the saddle.
2. Abseiling out of a building for the first time
Training yourself not to see a stride can be like abseiling blind out of a high-rise building for the first time – it feels very unnatural and your body is screaming at you telling you not to do it. If you have the right ingredients on the approach to a fence with the correct canter and line, the need for you to a see a stride is not important — the canter will do the work for you. This means not stalling the canter on the turn and approach to a fence in a desperate need to find the right stride. Keep the canter rolling with the hocks working underneath the horse and your jump will be markedly improved.
3. Baking a cake
Don’t try and ride the end result that you are aiming for. Analyse what the ingredients are to create the desired result and focus on these points rather than the final target. You must ensure every ingredient is included at the correct time throughout your training in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success. You wouldn’t bake a cake without sugar, for example, and stick it in the oven and hope for the best.
4. Posting a card through a letterbox
To help channel your hands so that you’re not restricting the horse’s movement and so that they are level and soft when riding, imagine you are holding one postcard between your thumbs and reins. You will hold the postcard out in front of your body and as you are riding around ‘post’ the postcard through the letterbox every now and then which will encourage softness and overtrack in self-carriage.
5. Your horse is a puppet and you are a puppeteer
As you are riding, imagine you have a piece of thread attached to each rein which is then attached to each shoulder of your horse. To keep your horse straight and to prevent him from falling in or out of his shoulder on straight lines and turns, make small adjustments with your pieces of ‘thread’. Raise either the left or right hand slightly in reaction to the way in which your horse is falling. Very small ‘tweaks’ can make an enormous difference when used correctly. Do not pull backwards on the rein when making these adjustments as this will have a detrimental affect on the desired result.
6. Your line to a fence is a length of rope
A common problem when jumping is that a rider often doesn’t stick to the line they first pick up on the approach to a fence. Imagine there is a length of rope leading to the fence — when a horse and rider drift out and take a wider line, the original length of rope then ends up stopping short of the fence and leaves you in a bad or non-existent take-off spot for the jump.
7. Your horse is a snake
Think of your horse like a snake when you are riding. Moving just the head won’t get you the bend you desire. You have to move the middle section of the ‘snake’ (the horse’s ribcage) to achieve the correct bend.