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Best Tips

What has helped you the most in your riding?

Which advice was the most memorable, or what simple tip was able to change everything for you?

Whenever I am teaching, in person or in our online courses, I always notice what I say or which exercises I ask my students to do that make the biggest difference for them.

We tend to think our riding challenges must be unique to us, and that everyone else has this all figured out already. But that’s just not true. I promise you that hundreds, even thousands of other riders, are having your same challenges.

In this video, I will share 3 of My Best Tips for Riders – the simple changes that make a big difference, that you can remember and practice at any time – walk, trot, or canter, trail riding, jumping, or riding patterns!

Hit play below to watch the video and then share any other great riding tips you have learned in the comments below.


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25 Responses

  1. In addition to these helpful concepts, just a few more of your many life changing tips:

    Lengthening through my lower back and breathing down through my pelvis has greatly help me reduce excessive curve and relax my hips and lowering my center of gravity without slumping.

    Floating sternum forward rather than shoulders back.

    Level heels so that I don’t jam my heels down and forward as I have been doing for years.

    1. I like your tip, Laura. Mine is also about the pelvis. It comes from a friend’s chiropractor, who advised that only when we have the sensation of “lifting our pelvis” can we quiet our legs and seat in the saddle.

    2. Laura,

      Thank you so much for your comment and kind words! So happy to hear so many of Callie’s tips have been helpful to you and improved your riding.

  2. It’s hard to say what one thing changed my riding for the better. Trial and error has been my history. I agree that learning where tension is in my body would be a huge step in the right direction. I realize, these days, how much I actually have. I will practice tension and release, daily, until it doesnt feel normal anymore.

    1. Janice,

      Trial and error is a very natural way of learning. Play with what helps you best release tension. What works best for you may be different from what works best for someone else.

      Sometimes flexing a tense area and relaxing it helps, sometimes breathing into the tension can relax it, and sometimes engaging or relaxing a different part of your body (like flexing your toes or slacking your jaw) can help. You might also try smiling when you do this as even our mental state can be driving the tension.

      Practicing this habit can be a great warm up routine for your rides!

  3. As I have mentioned before, I often ride to music (I’m a musician). Just this morning I rode again to David Foster’s ‘Eleven’. I noticed while grooming that my horse seemed especially anxious calling out to herd members, etc. He is usually very quiet so out came the CD player. He knows that is his ‘quiet’ CD and he became very relaxed.
    Also, I studied ballet for many years and we often discussed the “sky hook”! This was an imaginary hook attached to the sterum that lifted you up. The image automatically gives you better posture.

    1. Carol,

      How lovely! Wonderful that you found music both you and your horse enjoy. That’s such a fun and unique was to bond together.

      The sky hook visual is excellent! Thank you for sharing.

  4. All very helpful. I find a few deep breaths before I set off help me to relax and open my hips, and settle in the saddle. I liked what someone said about floating the sternum forwards rather than thinking of putting your shoulders back, but also I need to remember to pull (ever so gently), my neck back and keep my chin level and not up – that helps me keep my back straight, too. All good stuff!

    1. Rona,
      Sounds like you’ve made some great notices of your body alignment! Awareness is key to making changes to improve. Keep it up, and remember to breathe. 🙂

    2. Yes. My chiropractor has showed me how to pull my chin back to align with my spine. It has improved my posture. I often practice this while driving to my riding lesson.

  5. Great tips Callie, thanks. My horse really responds well when I make an effort to reduce my physical tension & these exercises are so simple I can do this every time I ride

    1. Liz,

      These would be an excellent warm up routine for your rides to reduce your tension! 🙂

  6. I find that if I do the neck and upper back lift with the string, it helps if I pull my pelvis down, imagining that I am going through the saddle, like sitting in the rocking chair of the horse’s body. I also find doing these with my eyes closed really helps, if you have a good quiet horse.
    Thank you for these tips, especially the stirrup one, such a great idea!!

    1. Carol,

      That’s a great way to think about it, where your horse’s movement and yours is connected. Awesome that you tried it with your eyes closed! Often that can help us notice and feel in our bodies better than with our eyes open. Thanks for watching!

  7. When I was a teenager I rode with a western trainer. His advice about feet was to imagine an egg under your foot and do not break it. I learned to carry the stirrup not hold it next is look where you want to go and keep my shoulder level while not leaning. I know in the English world contact in the mouth is typical but in the western world we prefer a loose rein. I loved the advice the more you use the reins the less the horse uses it’s brains. This made my relationship change enormously

    1. Teresa,

      Great visual! Sounds like you and your horse have found a method that works for you. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned.

  8. Right away I knew (and remembered) that my shoulder tension is my worst enemy. It affects my whole body. The tightening and releasing is something I need to get back to with my legs as well. Thank you for such practical ideas. I have been working on the breathing as well.

  9. I use this type of relaxation exercise all day long, but I tend to forget it once I’m on my horse, so thank you for emphasizing how much it affects one’s comfort when mounted. One of the most helpful things I learned from you was the image of “kneeling” in the saddle. It makes my whole body feel more secure in the saddle, and it automatically takes the pressure of my feet off the stirrups; my heels sink lightly down without effort in this position. It’s easier to feel safe and it’s easier to feel the horse. Thanks for your wonderful teaching.

  10. In one of Callie’s early videos a few years back she talked about closing your eyes to feel the horse’s rhythm and I do still do that sometimes on a tense day. She’s a warmblood who needs to have no gripping in my legs so I do have to focus on relaxing from hips down, so all of this will help me. But I carry all my tension in my shoulders — I’ve found that whether I’m at work or on my horse I can take a yoga inhale and exhale and relax my shoulders that way. I do these frequently throughout my day and riding.

  11. Your root beer float thought is my go to when I’m hunching. Root pelvis relax belly float sternum gets me in a better position and easy to remember.

  12. Personally, I have a hard time releasing tension in my buttocks! This is especially obvious when I’m just using a bareback pad. I’ll even manage to relax my legs, but if I can manage to relax my buttocks too, it’s such a smoother ride!
    I find if my students think heels down they often tend to jam their feet in the stirrups and swing their legs out front into a chair position. If I tell them toes up they don’t tend to push down and don’t swing forward and they keep heels in line with hips and ears. I think it may be achieving a similar idea as you mentioned in the video. Great video. If you are tense your horse will be too.

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