Building a Pre-Ride Routine Like a Pro

#MasterclassMonday is a collaboration between Horse Network and to empower equestrians. Every Monday we’ll bring you a new lesson from a leading trainer to help you troubleshoot your training, master your mindset and up your game. This month’s featured rider: Chelsea Canedy. 

Last week, we discussed the game-changing mind shift of thinking in the present like your horse, as well as why that can be so challenging.

Arriving to your horse with the mental and emotional balance that you need to be productive is so underrated and under-emphasized in the modern riding agenda. 

One of my favorite ways to put this into practice is to incorporate routines throughout my day. They can be short, miniature checkpoints that feel familiar and intentional enough to ground you in the now, and get your head out of what happened earlier or what might happen later on.

First, let’s outline what a good routine is, and isn’t. 

A good pre-ride routine IS

  • Relatively short
  • Sustainable 
  • Simple and easy to remember
  • A mental checkpoint to become aware in the present moment, re-center, and prime yourself for a productive ride

A good pre-ride routine ISN’T:

  • Lengthy or complicated
  • The ideal routine for your barn-mate. Everyone’s ideal pre-ride routine may be different! 
  • Something that adds stress to your life if you forget to do it

Not sure where to start? In my new Equestrian Masterclass course workbook, I provide you with a checklist to help you build your best pre-ride routine. 

Here are some examples of what you may want to include in your pre-ride routine: 

  • When you arrive at the barn, sit quietly in your car for a few minutes and do a short meditation. Notice the sensations in your body while sitting very still in a comfortable position, or watch the thoughts that enter your mind without following them, like an observer. 
  • Alternatively, take a moment to remember something that you love about horses and let your gratitude for the horses in your life spread throughout your body and out into the space around you. If it helps you, jot down in a journal the thing you felt grateful for, and how that practice made you feel. You’ll find that you’re able to approach your horse with more understanding and curiosity if you’re in a grateful frame of mind. That way, a good ride is just icing on the cake! 
  • Just before you are ready to get on, sit quietly for two to three minutes and set your intention for the ride. Note, I didn’t say “expectation” or “plan”—because this is a team sport, and your horse may not always be mentally or physically prepared to meet those expectations or follow your plan! Intentions are more about how you will approach the ride, which is something that is in your control. Intention is more than just thinking about your ride. Intention adds power to thought, and helps you lead your horse more skillfully and confidently. It’s the quietest aid we can use with our horse, but often the most effective, because it’s how horses innately communicate with each other.
  • As you put on the bridle, repeat a confidence-building mantra to yourself. “We’ve got this” and “I’ve got you” are two of my favorites. 

A pre-ride routine can look different for each rider, so experiment with what works best with you and most importantly, stick with it! 

Want more? Chelsea’s new Equestrian Masterclass is all about showing up mentally and emotionally for your horse.