Improving Your Riding Skills

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How to Improve Your Riding Skills

Positive thinking, self-talk and awareness of your learning and growth can have a significant effect on your horseback riding skill development. Practise positive thinking exercises to maintain your motivation.

Seek out a certified coach or instructor to work on your riding skills.


Goal setting involves the creation of realistic goals that identify where you want to be in the future. The best goals include specific and measurable steps that clearly describe and define the results you want to achieve.

These results should be attainable and realistic. They should focus on the specific skills that you need to work on and improve. This may include improvements such as:

  • Working on balance and weight distribution
  • Improving the way you feel and follow your horse’s motion in a trot
  • Working on leg and foot position
  • Working to be more conscious of arm position.

These types of riding goals are action-oriented, realistic and attainable. They can be broken down into tips, steps and strategies that will help you get there. A certified and qualified riding instructor can help you focus on the steps and strategies that will zero in on specific riding skills.


Self-talk is a strategy that can help you overcome situations that cause anxiety, fear and nervousness. For example, self-talk can help you get yourself going if a situation “paralyzes” you and you find it difficult to act. Slogans or phrases like “take charge” or “get it going” can help you start moving again. Self-talk can also help you increase your motivation and performance. For example, a slogan like “I embrace new challenges” or “I take risks” can help in competitive situations.

Watch this video by equitation science practitioner, Manuela McLean, about how to use breathing exercises to calm your nerves during riding:

Positive self-talk is an effective tool in developing confidence, maximizing ability and overcoming fears and anxieties. Self-talk uses slogans, phrases or sayings that help empower you.

  • Use the present tense. Say “I am” instead of “I will” or “I can.”
  • Use positive terms, words and phrases. Say “I make good decisions” instead of “I avoid bad decisions.” 
  • Create a mantra or motto that reflects a positive attitude toward your learning, skill development and growth as a rider.

Visualization can be a powerful tool to build confidence. Visualization is like creating a “mental movie” in your imagination. Your mental movie is more effective when you make it as detailed as possible.


  • Start by taking three deep and calming breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Relax. 
  • Start to fill in the details. Visualize your horse. Visualize what you look like when you ride your horse. Visualize your surroundings, including where you are, what the ground feels like, the plants, buildings, fences, trees, people, other horses, weather and daylight. 
  • Take in your surroundings by using your five senses. What do you touch? What does it feel like? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see when you’re riding? What do you taste?
  • Imagine your confidence and relaxation as you are riding.

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