Real riding challenge day 8 is getting Frisby back into the arena, and working on flatwork! I’m a huge fan of flatwork honestly. Because before you can do the bigger things that we all want to do with our horses, you have to have strong skills on the flat. And it is also a great tool to help build your confidence in the saddle.
It may not be as exciting as going over a course of jumps, or riding a perfect dressage test. But if you don’t have great flatwork, these harder activities can be frustrating. So instead of getting frustrated, and trying to do too much too soon, it’s better to work on perfecting your walk trot and canter on the flat, and then add in some of the fun things, like jumping, or dressage, barrel racing, or whatever it is you want to do with your horse.
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
This isn’t a new concept. A lot of horse trainers talk about perfect practice. So it isn’t really practice that makes perfection, but rather perfect practice makes one perfect, or at least heading in the direction.
If we did practice perfectly every single time we were in the saddle, we would be pretty awesome I think, but sometimes the perfect part just doesn’t happen!
I was first introduced to the term “Perfect Practice” when I was reading a book by Martha Josey, “Running To Win“. And then again recently when I was reading “How Good Riders Get Good” by Denny Emerson. Its’s a really good book by the way. I love finding good books that help me with my horses.
But in both of these books, they talk about not just practicing to get better with riding, but to practice perfect every time. And for me (and Frisby) that means a lot of flatwork.
What is Flatwork?
But what exactly is flatwork you might be wondering? Flatwork is when you are riding your horse on the flat, meaning exercises that can be done at the walk, trot and canter. It can include turns, or bending, circles and transitions.
Basically anything that you are doing while riding your horse without jumps could be constituted as flatwork.
And when you are doing flatwork, it’s a good idea to work in the slower gaits before working up to the faster ones. For example, learning how to walk a perfect circle, and then how to trot one, and then do it in canter.
And working each of the gaits in both directions is important too. So this is what Frisby and I worked on today. And it was a good day to do it. We have been working off property, or out in the pasture for the last couple of days, so it was fun to see how that would carry over into the arena.
Start Slow and Build
Frisby is pretty good at the walk. I can ask him to do pretty much anything at the walk and he is great. Probably because a lot of our riding is always at the walk.
But today I wanted to do more trot work. I really want him to move, and have a good strong working trot. This is easy for me to do when I am lunging him, but can be more of a challenge when I am in the saddle.
So today we were able to do a lot of trot work. Working on transitions from walk to trot as well as trot to walk.
We did circles, and serpentine. And I tried to remember a dressage test pattern to keep his energy focused, while I worked on my balance in the saddle.
After a very nice trotting warm up, we did canter a little bit around the arena. And I wish I could convince my husband to be my photographer every day so I could get pictures of when we were cantering!
And after he had given me a fantastic ride, I decided this is a great place to end our lesson.
Always End On A Good Note
When your horse has done a great job, and done what is asked of him, this is when you end the ride. And this can be difficult to do, end the ride. Because if he is doing so awesome, it may be tempting to keep going. But eventually you and your horse will get tired. You may get cranky and he may get stubborn.
The key is to stop before this happens. Not only will your horse thank you, but you will be even more excited to get out and ride again tomorrow.
So when your horse does something perfectly, this might be the best time to end your lesson. Revel in the moment, give him a big pat and a hug, and reward him with stopping. Hopefully you will have a big smile on your face, and a warm feeling in your heart!