January is renowned for being a difficult month to get through and motivation to ride can be hard to find. Five-star event rider Hector Payne has the following tips to mix up your training so that you look forward to getting into the saddle.

1. Set an progress goal

“When motivation to ride is low, it’s a good idea to mix things up in training and do something different to keep things fresh for both you and your horse,” says Hector.

“You could set a goal to improve a weakness or teach your horse a new dressage move. Having a focus will keep you on track and give you an incentive to tack up every day.”

2. Work on straightness

A simple thing to improve is straightness.

“Achieving straightness when riding is vital, whether that is for approaching a fence when jumping or achieving a perfect straight line when riding a dressage test,” explains Hector.

“During your schooling session, ride on an inner track or the 3/4 line as this means your horse has to ‘stand up’ and not use the fence for balance.

“If you are lucky enough to have arena mirrors, ride towards them and look at whether the horse is trotting straight.”

3. Try leg yielding

“If you have a young horse it is a good idea to introduce leg yielding to their training early, even if it is just a few steps.

“Starting in walk, leg yield back to the track and then as it improves leg yield away from the track. If you teach it well in walk, it will come more naturally in trot.

“For more experienced horses it’s good to leg yield in from the track as it encourages them to put their hind legs underneath them more, without the rider having to work too hard.”

Watch 2014 Badminton Horse Trials winner Sam Griffiths explain how to ride leg yield here.

4. Work on your horse’s responsiveness to your aids

To help ensure your horse is in front of your leg and responding to your aids, try this simple pole work exercise:

  • Set out four sets of poles on a large circle: two sets of trot poles just over one-and-a-half yards apart and two sets of canter poles, three yards apart.
  • The aim is to complete the circle as smoothly as possible.
  • To make this harder, try using raised trotting poles or cavaletti’s.
  • Build up slowly by first isolating the trot poles and then the canter poles, before riding the complete circle.
  • Remember to repeat the exercise on both reins.

By trying something new and mixing things up, hopefully you will be motivated to ride in no time at all.

Hector Payne is a brand ambassador for Terravesta Equine’s natural MISCANTHUS horse bedding.