If you're thinking of taking up a career in equestrian sport, Jonathan Rippon from Horse & Country shares his tips for taking your riding to the next level.
Horse riding is a great pastime that's not only a fantastic way to keep in shape, but it's also incredibly rewarding. The bond you create between yourself and your horse is unlike any other. But, while many people take part in horse riding as a hobby, the numbers of people participating in equestrian sports and competitions is sadly declining (Statista).
Taking up equestrian sports can have many benefits. Not only is it great exercise, but it's ideal if you want to challenge yourself and boost your confidence. Plus, it’s the perfect way to meet new people!
Whether you're just getting started in the world of riding, or you're keen to start taking part in competitions, there are a few things you'll need to consider. These include what kind of sport you're going to try, what kind of equipment you'll need, and any training considerations you'll need to make.
If you're interested in taking your hobby to the next level, I've put together my top tips to help.
Choose a sport that suits you
To develop your riding career, you'll first need to find a sport that suits you. There are numerous equestrian sports and competitions you can take part in, and there are options available for any skill level, including beginners, so you don't necessarily need to be a pro to enter.
The best way to figure out which one is right for you is by working to your horse's strengths and figuring out what your long-term goals are. For example, if your horse is a great jumper, then show jumping could be the sport for you.
If you'd like to work on the bond and communication between yourself and your horse, then dressage is the perfect option. For horses that are great at endurance sports, then racing or cross country could be the ideal discipline.
If you fancy a bit of everything, then you could try out eventing — the triathlon of the horse world that takes place over three days. Eventing has three phases: dressage, cross country, and show jumping. So, it's the perfect option if you're keen to develop multiple disciplines.
Invest in the right equipment
Different sports require different kinds of clothing and tack, and it's important that you invest in the right pieces. For your training sessions, you can wear your usual jodhpurs or breeches, as well as riding or paddock boots and riding gloves. You should also ensure that you've invested in a good-quality riding helmet.
The essential tack you need can be different for each discipline. For show jumping, your horse will need to be kitted out with a jumping saddle, which allows for greater movement in the legs while in the jumping position.
For dressage, you'll need to invest in a dressage saddle which allows for closer contact between the horse and rider. This can improve performance, as the horse will be more finely tuned into the small movements and commands you make with your body.
When competing, some sports, such as dressage, have a strict dress code and these can vary for each event. These rules can dictate the colour of your dress as well as the tack you use, so it's always worth doing your research and checking the event rules before going to any competition.
Take out insurance
Before starting your training, it's a good idea to take out insurance, such as personal accident cover, in case of injury. Some policies will also cover emergency vet's fees for your horse. Most rider insurance also covers riding equipment, but only to a certain amount, so it’s best to shop around to find the right policy for you.
Going professional can take years of hard work and training, so it's important to prepare your horse and take regular classes to build your skill. Training can be a mix of both ridden and non-ridden work, so make sure to select a number of activities that helps you towards your goals, but still keeps things interesting for you and your horse, too.
Taking solo lessons is the perfect way to get one-on-one training. If you're on a budget, group lessons can be a cheaper option compared to private lessons, and they're a great way to meet likeminded individuals who are also keen to build their skill.
Taking part in master classes is another great way to train. These will give you plenty of hints and tips from the experts, as well as the opportunity to observe their form and style. You can find plenty of master classes online including at horseandcountry.tv, and many of these are available by video so you can be fully flexible with your training.
Remember to practice regularly to hone your skill. For serious riders, around six days of training a week should be a good amount, but you can reduce this if you or your horse needs some rest. Having at least one day off a week will help your horse recover from their training.
Taking part in equestrian sports can be incredibly rewarding for both you and your horse. Hopefully the tips in this guide have given you plenty of ideas on how you can take your hobby to the next level.
This piece was written by Horse & Country TV