Learning to ride a horse is complicated. You have to remember to keep your hands steady, elbows tucked, heels down, shoulders back just to learn how to walk. As more gaits and movements are introduced, the more muscle memory you need to try and build up. Riding never gets easier. Thankfully, trainers have come up with great, hilarious, and controversial phrases that make us laugh and become our mantras as we ride around the arena.
Want to keep your hands steady, with thumbs on top? “Pretend you’re holding a tray of wine glasses!” If you spill those glasses, that’s a lot of wine wasted. That’s what one of my first trainers told me as I started riding (don’t worry, I was 22!). This was always followed up with, “Put away your chicken wings!” Elbows in, thumbs up was a simple idea in theory, but in practice? Not so much. Even today, I remind myself about chicken wings and wine.
Having good posture while still keeping your hips flexible seems like two conflicting ideas. Aside from “Boobs out!”, I’ve also heard that I need to have shoulders like a queen, hips like a . . . well, you get the idea. It’s my mantra when I ride now: “Shoulders like a queen, shoulders like a queen . . . “ Having my shoulders back even helps me remember to engage my core.
Another rider said that their trainer told her to ride like her horse would disappear under her at any moment. What part of her body would she land on? If she was sitting correctly, her feet. If not? Prepare to face plant.
So what about the rest of the body? To keep your heels down, one rider said her trainer told she had gold bricks in her heels. To this day, it helps her visualize keeping her heels down. On keeping your head up, remember that there’s no money on the ground. That’s right — if you plan on riding in shows, you need to keep your head up to see where you’re going.
To keep your head in the game, getting in that queen mindset is a good way to stay calm. Another rider said her trainer reminds her that she has ice in her veins. You’re an Ice Queen, if you will.
Trainers say crazy things, but what they’re really doing is helping us visualize what our bodies need to be doing. Just as we work with our horses to train their muscles, we, too, need to train our muscles. Part of that training is remembering. And there’s no better way to remember to keep your shoulders in, head up, or heels down than to replay ridiculous phrases our trainers have said to us over the years.