Depends on your goals… if you just want to have fun, go out and have fun! Buy pretty matching saddle pads and polo wraps, and just enjoy trail riding or whatever.
But, if you have ill-defined goals and want to improve, but aren’t sure how…
First, sit down and think about what you want to do:
Do you think you’re more interested in taking up dressage? Do you want to return to the hunter ring at some point?
WRITE DOWN your goals (long term and fairly vague are okay) Then, put down shorter, step-by-step goals that build to those longer term ones. don’t put specific timelines associated with them, you don’t want to beat yourself up for not progressing at a certain speed, just use them to keep you on track.
BIG GOAL - show in the 2’6 hunters at a local/schooling show
smaller goals (from now to eventual goal. These are not all inclusive, just an idea of what you might think about)
- walk, trot, canter in 2-point without losing balance
- trot a ‘course’ of poles
- trot cross rails
- canter ‘course’ of poles
- canter crossrails
- introduce gymnastics
- canter 2’ course, simple lead changes
- develop flying changes
- canter 2’6 courses, work up to 2’9 singles
- enter 2’ division at local show
- enter 2’6 division (goal met)
Revisit the goals periodically and adjust as required.
DOCUMENT your progress. EVERY ride, take a five minutes afterwards (I use a simple day planner) to write down what you worked on and how it went
ex: 1 July 16: good warm up, very quiet and soft at w/t, but wanted to get heavy at canter. Worked on transitions at the canter between collected and medium to get Pony to lighten up. Warmed up over a 2’ X. Pony wanted to land right lead both directions, so schooled a left hand circle a few times over it to encourage him to land on the left lead. Finished with a 2’ course, trotting into the lines, cantering out doing the adds, with simple changes.
After a month or two, you’ll have so much fun going back and reading how far you’re progressing. Or if you’re not, and you see you’re struggling with the same issues every ride, that’s what you need to focus on, and maybe bring in outside help.
Periodic lessons/clinics are great, and writing down your “homework” will really help you identify if you’re making progress in the direction you’d intended.
I board on my own, and without a regular lesson or groundperson it’s easy to get stagnant, or just ride aimlessly around. By documenting my work, and reviewing it at least bi-weekly, I feel that it motivates me and keeps me on track.