How To: Avoid getting ‘rider’s block’

Do you ever get the feeling that your riding has hit a wall? Jessica Fox offers some tips for busting through.

From Jessica:

Riding valleys. They’re the worst.

Since getting back in the saddle and focusing on dressage, I’ve had lots. There have been peaks, too, but, boy, those lows and plateaus in between can be mean suckers, serving up agita with a side of cranky during every schooling ride.


The thing is, highs and lows are natural. As they say, progress is not linear, two steps forward, one step back…yadda yadda yadda. Of course, all the platitudes in the world don’t make the lows any less of a bummer.


But, I’ve learned coming out of those valleys doesn’t have to feel like a Sisyphean task. Here are a few tips that have helped me stop spinning my wheels and move on:

1. Stop what you’re doing. Wondering why what worked in a lesson is not working now, no matter how many times you try to get it right? Stop. Literally. Stand there, roll your shoulders, walk around the ring. This will chill you out, break the cycle, and reset your body and mind.


2. Play trivia. Overthinking things? Get your instructor or a friend to ask you questions while you’re riding whatever has been jamming you up. Back in Pony Club, an instructor would ask random questions just as we jumped, like “What’s your favorite ice cream?” If you’re alone, distract yourself a smidge with a non-challenging train of thought. One of my go-tos is assembling a grocery list.


3. Sing it, sister! When I’m really desperate to keep myself from getting too intense (thus getting in my own way) I sing myself a schooling musical. As in “…and we’re going into the corner, and we’re not falling in, no we’re not, ‘cause we kick butt…and now we’re circling and we’re still not falling in, well, maybe we are a little but that’s OK ‘cause it’s better than last time…” Not only will this provide endless amusement for barn buddies and passersby, but it’ll get you to you relax and breathe.


4. Shake it off. If your horse won’t become alarmed, wriggle around. Shake your booty. Drop your feet out of the stirrups and do the robot. A little levity always helps, and so does loosening up.


Go Riding.


Jessica Fox is a freelance writer and novelist-in-training who dreams of the day  she can sit a trot without flailing about. She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA where she writes as much as possible to feed her increasingly voracious horse-habit and almost rides dressage. Read previous “Riding the Second Time Around” columns on Horse Nation and visit her website at


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