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Winter is a great time to focus on yourself.  “Why?” I hear you say.  Simple.  Normally there are fewer competitions, so it frees up a little time to do some exercise.  The days are shorter, with longer periods of darkness, so less time to ride, and hopefully a little more time to improve your riding with work off the horse.  Finally, it is a great time to make changes without worrying about what effect it is going to have on the body and your performance.  During the season, you don’t want to make big changes to your current regime, a bit like you may not want to go and teach your horse changes, or complex movements that might upset their way of going.  So how do you decide what to work on?


  • Look back over your dressage tests, and see what areas are consistently good, and what areas are not.
  • If you have some video footage from the year, take the time to watch snippets and see where you have progressed, and if there are any very obvious areas you may need to work on.
  • Ask your trainer what they feel your weaknesses are and what areas you should develop with your riding.

What 3 things have you learnt from your evaluation?


Now you should have a picture of what areas you need to develop in your riding, so you can both on to your physical fitness and movement off the horse.  Both have a close correlation to your performance on the horse.  If you stick a hip out on the horse, have one side weaker than the other, or find your shoulders tense and your hand heavy, that will show up off the horse too.  When I work with any riders, we go through a movement analysis that looks at posture and how each rider moves,  highlighting strengths and weaknesses.  However, unless you have attended one of our clinics or taken our online assessment, then you will need a simpler way to work out what to focus on.  Simply rate yourself out of 10 on the following areas –

  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Posture
  • Seat
  • Balance
  • Stability
  • Symmetry – how balanced you are between the left and the right hand side of the body
  • Lower body
  • Upper body
  • Core
  • Flexibility

The list is quite comprehensive, but it will really give you an idea of exactly what to focus on.

What 3 areas do you feel you weakest on, and what 3 areas are you demonstrating strength in?


Before you crack on with focused areas to work on, work out what you want to achieve next year – be it a higher competition level, better scores in the dressage, more stable in the saddle etc.  You can always discuss this with your trainer.  Setting a goal helps to motivate, steer your training in the right direction and give you something to aim for.

What is your goal for next year?

Once you have set your goal for next year, look at everything we have discussed so far and work out what areas to focus on to help you head towards your goal.  So if your goal is to improve your dressage scores, and your posture is poor, then improving it is a relatively easy way to improve your scores.

What 3 elements would help you reach you reach your goal?

Finally set goals for these 3 areas, so simply ask your self:  ‘in my 3 areas, what would I like to be able to do by the end of the winter?’  And hey presto, you have started your plan, and should now clearly know what to focus on for the winter

Next time we will start to look at how to develop these areas, in the mean time read more on the website

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