What makes a good rider?

This post has been in my drafts folder since last year when I was doing nothing but my normal chores at the yard and hand walking/grazing Vallu but I never got round to publishing it because I was constantly too busy to try and finish a blog post that required too much thinking. But during that time and since then, I've had a lot of time to think about what a good rider. Not the Olympic, world class record breaking rider on their million dollar horse but a 'good' rider on their normal happy horse.
For me, a good rider has the 'feel', an appreciation for each horse they work with. We must all remember that each horse is different and has different needs because of their different skills and weaknesses. A good rider understands this and works with each horse to improve their strengths and to make each horse the best version of themselves. To just ride each horse the same way without any flexibility is pointless and the sign that this person isn't as good as they think they are because "anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful” Xenophon.

For me, a good rider is prepared to put in hours of work. This is not just riding, but all the other work that is required with horses. Mucking out, tack cleaning, washing, collecting feeds shavings and hay, turning out and bringing in from fields in whatever weather, doing rug changes at 10pm, getting up at 6am every day to feed the horses and being prepared to spend most of your free time at the yard. Good riders also tend to be the ones that hang around to watch others ride, they are willing to learn simply from watching someone else have a lesson. They have a need and a want to develop as a rider and to be a successful rider.
I believe a good rider will learn from their mistakes. No one becomes good by always being good, it's important to remember that everyone starts with just the basic knowledge. Good riders are willing to put in work into reading, researching whether this be books, videos, blogs or articles, going to demos, and reviewing their mistakes and actively looking for ways to improve. Not every rider can afford to train with 'the best' and most expensive trainers, but that for me doesn't mean that they cannot become a good rider.

Good riders are also those who are willing to ask for advice and ideas. Good riders learn from their lessons and training session, but good riders still ask for more advice and new ideas. And they embrace and are willing to try new things. Being prepared to try a new exercise that might feel odd at first (10m circles in counter canter, I'm looking at you...) you are willing to see if it would help you and your horse. A good rider also recognises when something doesn't work for a particular horse and quickly moves onto trying another exercise that might work better. Adaptation and flexibility are so important! πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ
Finally, I think a good rider is prepared to change their plans and expectations and are sensitive to their horse's needs. If a horse feels off, a good rider doesn't have an intense training session, they go for a hack or a plod around the fields, or do pole work or have a jump session instead. A good rider always listens to their horse. This is so vitally important for me. I can't stand seeing a horse that is absolutely bored out of their mind doing another 20 meter circle in trot in the indoor when they really want to go for a hack or just a hand walk. Horses should hack out, lunging, be hand walked etc, there're so many different alternatives! Different type of work is so important with horses and I believe a good rider knows this and is willing to do this for their horses (and I try to!)

What about you? What do you think makes a good rider?


  1. Love that first quote!! You are so right.

    As a sidenote, I just wanted to let you know I have changed my blog name, so it may not show up in your reader list anymore. The new url is www.twoandahalfhorses.blogspot.com. You may have to re-enter it into your reader list to follow again.


  2. Great post and great quotes! I think so much of being a good rider boils down to *wanting* to be good - being curious and driven to learn more.

  3. What a great post! Personally, I don't want to be just a good rider, but a good horsewoman -- which to me encompasses more than just riding. I need to understand how to care for my horse, but then again, I do think that knowledge and bond created on the ground, transfers to under saddle work as well. It's important to know how horses think, to set them up for success. At the end of the day, through a variety of things you mentioned, a good rider sets her horse (and him or herself!) up for success.

    1. Yeah I should have included good horsemanship skills as one of the things that make a good rider, that's so true! :)