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Beginnings are everything. How you start your ride can build rapport and connection with your horse and get you both into a rhythm and flow right away.

Starting your ride with a clear mind, focused on what you are asking for and where you are going, makes a big difference, for any horse, and especially if you ride school horses.

If we are distracted, unfocused, and have no clear intention of where we want our horse to go, they will likely do the same, wandering around, cutting turns, calling for a horse outside the arena, or even making a beeline for the gate!

This lack of direction is not just frustrating for us, it can be disconnecting and frustrating for our horse as well!

In this video, I will demonstrate how to start your ride with a clear focus, as well as show the kind of start to a ride we have all been guilty of… (although I may exaggerate it a bit just to have some fun!)

After you watch the video, leave a comment. How do you start your ride? What could you do differently?

See you in the comments!


P.S. One part of being organized for a ride is having a clear plan. If you would like some help in planning your practice rides, check out my book Stay in the Saddle – 67 Exercises for Horse and Rider. You can create hundreds of practice combinations and there is a demonstration and troubleshooting video for every exercise plus a Problem Solver Index.

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Instructed by: Callie King
Our popular book + video program. Includes 67 Exercises for horse and rider to bring fun and purpose to every ride.
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Four weeks of yoga classes just for riders. Develop strength and mobility to improve how you feel both in and out of the saddle.

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48 Responses

  1. Thank you! I️ love the idea of starting off with clear intention and have found that taking some deep breaths and visualizing myself being strong and confident has helped. I️ will use your ideas to further enhance the ride after that. I’ve ordered your book and am excited to start using that too!

  2. First, I love Ellie: She is sweet but you can tell a mile away is smart and will do her own thing given a chance. I like your clear direction and enjoyed the part of what to avoid. Very nice, thank you. Marjorie

  3. Nice pre-ride Callie. Each time I ride, I take time and walk around the arena a few times in each direction on foot with my horse in hand. I am checking the arena for rocks, divots… while simultaneously making sure my horse and I are in tune. I halt, turn, back, change speed- Is she with me? Am I in the moment? This lets me know the horse she is in this moment before I mount. Depending on her “answers” I will begin adjusting my riding plan before getting on!

    1. What a great way to check in with your horse Paige – love this!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  4. Hilarious and humbling too. So good to be reminded that our attitude is 50% of the success. 🙂

    And the feeling of focus builds on itself. I know that when I take the time to visualize my mounting, it ALWAYS go smoother. That was the thing I spent all my time visualizing and practicing. I’m realizing now I can do the same for other components as well.

  5. great advice to have a plan. Knowledge is power and if I can take a few minutes to breathe and focus I’m sure my horse will feel it.

  6. I really like the presentation’s reminder to be mentally ready before you get on your horse and have a plan. My horse looks to me to be his leader, if I don’t provide that he is far more anxious.

    I usually do a few basics of ground work just to help him engage. Then we tack up, walk around the arena, adjust the girth, do a few more simple activities to help him and I engage. Once I mount, we stand for a few minutes doing those mental checks and then start with our plan for the day.

    Callie, I really appreciate your tips. Thank you.

    1. Sounds like your horse is very lucky to have you taking the time at the beginning of the ride!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  7. An important reminder; thank you. It’s very much like setting an intention at the start of a yoga class, with a much more centered feeling as a result. Thanks so much – I always learn a tremendous amount from each of your videos. And Ellie! THAT FACE!

  8. I plan my ride while I’m on my way to the barn, so I’m not rushed, and my pony isn’t feeling rushed and nervous. He’s nervous enough as it is. I plan an alternative workout also, in case it is very windy when I get there, instead of riding, I will do ground work.

  9. Very precise video! I try to start my ride by just taking time to relax and point my horse in the direction I want to go. I try to make us a team. Being anxious only makes her anxious.

    1. Exactly Gracie, rushing can really create a negative connotation on the time we spend with our horses!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

    1. Give it a try during your next ride and let us know how it goes!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  10. I recently started doing this and things go so much better. BUT I remember the times that I did it the way you shown in faster speed. So funny to see the comparison.

  11. I have started walking around and maybe work some of the obstacles on the ground I have prepared, getting myself and gear prepared before I get in the saddle. The other thing I do is flex my horse left and right several times before we step off. Great information and will remind me to take the time it takes instead of just ambling around fixing this and that and miss the work I had planned to do.

  12. I wasn’t going to ride today. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. My last ride felt rushed and not very relaxing. So when I got to the stable I made a conscious effort to relax. Instead of mounting up right away I took my time grooming. Really made an effort to slow down a nd be in the moment. After racking up I took a walk around the arena leafing my horse. Took some deep breaths. My plan was to just relax and enjoy the ride. We had a wonderful ride. My horse was much more relaxed. Will be trying to do this more often. Thank you for your ideas.

    1. Just taking some time can really help you and your horse have a better experience during your ride!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  13. Great demo. I sinned with getting on and go, but once on my mare, I zone in. I do take the time to check all items [tack] before I get on her.
    Your video was great to stop – focus – and go.
    Thank you.

  14. Great video I took lessons at Honey Brook with Kaitlyn and Ellie she is truly a star. I enjoyed setting the tone with her by walking in rhythm leading her to the arena once we arrived taking the time to do a warm up walk around the arena. I have not seen Ellie since the Pandemic she looks great!!!🤩

    1. Gail, Ellie is our all-star lesson horse – hope you enjoyed your lesson with her!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  15. This is so true😅 Exactly what I see in some of my students too, whenever I’m not in the arena from the start. And sometimes myself to I’m afraid 🙈
    So easy to get unfocused. Too much thinking some times.
    This is such a good reminder for everyone.
    Thank you so much for all the work and effort you put in for us all.

  16. Spot on as usual. So simple – we think, ‘I don’t do that!’ – but you know, we are all guilty of it. So this was a very timely reminder.

  17. Thank you, Callie, for this video. I like to take my horse around the ring on foot, simply walking around it, before getting in the saddle. He and I know the ring well, and also the distractions that can come up while in it. So it’s nice to take a walk around and get in sync with each other and our setting before starting class.

  18. I always do a little groundwork, sometimes 2-line driving (great opportunity to gradually tighten girth) – After mounting I just sit and do some yoga stretching and balancing, flexing – Start ride with feeling rhythm and footfalls of the horse, basic moves, then continue with patterns of previous groundwork

  19. This makes so much sense. I try and go in with a plan but sometimes it changes at the last minute depending what is going on. I enjoyed seeing what i do on occasion. It brought some humor and made me realize i need to be more focused to make it easier on my horse. Thanks.

  20. Excellent! I have what I call the 5 S’s to consider once in the saddle:
    Snug legs (light leg contact)
    Soft hands (light but present rein contact)
    Strong core (checking posture and pelvis)
    Sigh (deep breathe)
    I pass along many of your videos to beginners that are my husband’s clients, who is a horse trainer but who is often challenged by training the owners!

  21. Very timely post this morning –I haven’t ridden due to an injury for almost 2 months, and this morning is my first time back to riding. I also lost my heart and soul mare a week ago quite unexpectedly to an abdominal aneurysm. She was my steady go to horse as opposed to my Quarter Horse mare that I will ride today. I am going to take the suggestions here and from the body scan video and take it slow. Getting on and walking off will be a victory in itself. Thanks Callie, for always making it seem so straighforward.

  22. I love your work but am saddened at how overweight Ellie is; it’s an ideal opportunity to showcase horses in the ‘ideal’ range of body score or even slightly light for this time of year. I am definitely not in the super-organised group but will take your words onboard and try harder esp. when I’m aiming to do some work in the school. Thank you for sharing your words and video.

    1. Hi Sue, we appreciate your concern but we do manage Ellie’s weight – she gets an appropriate amount of exercise and lives on a dry lot!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  23. Sensible advice, which I think will be valuable, even though (I admit) I ride my own horse and not a lesson horse. Thank you.

  24. Hi do like to do my own tacking and preparation before I ride. My horse and I also take a walk around the arena before I mount up. But I have to admit to being guilty of some of those fast forwarded antics in the video. I never gave it much thought. This was very enlightening and entertaining. Thanks

    1. We’ve all been guilty at one time or another of all of them – being aware is the first step to making a change!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  25. I have felt like I’ve had all of these obstacles to riding my horse, and felt rushed almost every time I went out to ride, which made it difficult to plan ahead for the ride. I was mostly trying to put on the “I’m not stressed” face while my horse was giving me the “you are stressing me” face. With about 6 years of learning, under my belt, now; a relatively short time with a trainer but mostly on my own, it has been a challenge; but, with your videos and excellent advise, I have grown. The advice in this video may seem obvious to many but it really is so helpful when you hear it.

    1. We can all use a reminder on this – even if you’ve been in the saddle for years! I hope next time you’ll be able to try taking a step back and slow down before your next ride.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  26. Totally guilty of starting rides like the “do not do this” example. But only ring riding. I am very prepared when the trails are the plan. I guess because I can’t take anything for granted when heading out for a long ride.
    Elli is a big adorable bear of a horse. Love her.

    1. Hope this video gave you some tips to be more prepared the next time you are riding in the arena 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  27. Hi Callie,
    I really enjoyed your video and totally see how we need focus, however, I am having a different problem recently. I start off well and I feel in tune with my pony but then if she ‘plays up’ in any way I lose focus and then it all starts to go wrong! I guess I get scared and tense at that point and we get into a pulling match sometimes – any advice greatly appreciated.

  28. Love this video Callie. I have felt for some time now, that I need some kind of plan going into my ride, but never felt like I knew enough to “plan” a ride and end up doing just walk, trot, canter. I am starting Level C in Pony Club and I do have you new book. Now I feel like I have some resources to help me plan my rides. Thank you for the video.

    1. You have a great plan in place with Pony Club instruction – plus Callie’s Stay in the Saddle Book 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  29. I rode a lesson horse named Lucy for a while, and she shied easily even in a familiar space. I got into the habit of walking her around the arena once each way, every lesson, before we did anything else. I’ve moved on from Lucy (though I still bring her treats every now and then) but I’ve found that to be a good habit with any horse. The horse and I can both check out anything that might have changed or moved and have a little quiet time before we start to work.

    1. That is a great routine Susan! We have several riders at our farm who do the same with their horses 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

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