1. Use your corners
This often means your pony’s cutting the corner or has the wrong bend. Keep your inside leg firmly on the girth and use it to push your pony into the corner and encourage him to bend. Look around the corner to where you want to go, and be firm that you’re the one in charge, not your pony!
2. Keep your heels down
‘Heels down’ is one of the very first things you hear when you learn to ride! Pushing your heels down in your stirrups will keep you in a strong position, which is especially important if you’re jumping. If you struggle to keep your heels down, instead, think of keeping your toes up and you’ll find it much easier.
3. Sit up
Leaning too far forwards is a common problem, especially if your pony is very strong. But leaning forward will affect your balance and make it harder to stay in control. Stretch your body up as tall as possible as if a string were pulling you up to the sky from your head. This will keep you secure in the saddle and help you stay in balance with your pony.
4. Look up
It’s a common bad habit to look down – maybe you’re checking your diagonal or looking at your hands. It causes your shoulders to roll forwards, which means your position becomes weak. Look up between your pony’s ears, with your chin up. This will keep you sat up tall in the saddle and riding confidently.
5. Shorten your reins
It’s really easy for your reins to slip longer and longer as you ride and before you know it, you’ve lost all contact with your pony and you’re out of control! Keep your hands closed around your reins and shorten them regularly if you know you’re guilty of letting them slip. Putting coloured tape on the reins where you should hold them is a helpful trick, too.
6. Leg on
To keep a good rhythm and impulsion, first make sure you can feel your pony’s side under your leg. If you aren’t making contact, wrap your legs around him and keep your feet against the girth. ‘Leg on’ doesn’t mean that you should be nagging your pony every stride, though! Use your aids effectively to keep him listening to you.
7. Independent seat
This is when you can move one part of your body without affecting your position or rein contact – for example, making a transition. The main factors to think about to achieve the perfect independent seat are staying relaxed, sitting up straight, keeping a strong posture and remaining balanced.
8. Open order
When in a group lesson, your instructor might ask you to ride in open order. This means that you can spread out and ride where you want in the arena, without following the rider in front (it’s the opposite to riding as a ride). Remember to watch out for other ponies to avoid crashes, and always pass each other left-hand to left-hand.
9. Inside leg to outside hand
You’ve probably heard this one a lot – especially when you’re riding a circle. Your inside leg is used to keep your pony moving forwards and to push him into the bend, while your outside hand contains the energy and stops him falling out. This keeps him balanced and maintains impulsion.