Is your coach heading down south for the winter soon, leaving you at a loss for lessons? Or maybe you only get the chance to ride with a trainer every couple of weeks? Perhaps you don’t have a regular trainer available to work with? Maybe none of the above applies to you, but you feel like you mindlessly ride in circles whenever left to your own devices. If any of these ring true, then new Ride iQ app is here to help you.
I’m an adult amateur eventer who works a 9-5 desk job and I’ve been in all of these boats at one time or another. For the vast majority of my equestrian journey, participating in a regular program has not been feasible for me. So whenever I saddle up to put in the work, it’s been just me, my horse and whatever motivation and focus I can muster that day.
Having this background and knowing the limitations of a busy adult amateur with limited financial resources and time, I jumped at the opportunity to try out Ride iQ. My assessment? It’s a game changer and I wish I had it five years ago. If you haven’t heard about Ride iQ yet, let me give you a quick overview:
Ride iQ is an app available on iPhone and Android which has a library of audio lessons, recorded by an assortment of accomplished trainers, to ride along with on your own horse. The library is extensive, with over 200 lessons (and counting! More are added weekly) that guide you throughout warming up on the flat to jumping short courses or gymnastic exercises, and everything in between including the the most basic of skills, like how to feel your posting diagonal or how to introduce upper-level skill work, such as half pass and flying lead changes. There’s also plenty of content for off-the-horse learning as well, from podcasts, to Q&A,s to tips for riding dressage tests.
I have to admit though — as much as I loved the idea of Ride iQ, I was pretty skeptical at first. After I downloaded the app and created an account I listened to a session while I was driving to the barn one day, just to get a feel for what I was in for. Doing that didn’t decrease my skepticism, but once I got on my horse and hit play everything clicked.
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I could go on and on attempting to describe all of the different features and uses Ride iQ has (and there are a lot), but I’ve decided that the most useful way to present this review might be to tell you each of my hesitations about this app and then explain why I needn’t have worried. So here we go:
How could a pre-recorded audio lesson from a trainer who has never met me or my horse be useful?
You’ll hear the Ride iQ sessions be colloquially referred to as lessons, but they’re not so much lessons as they are ride-alongs. The coaches record the session as they are riding one of their own horses, so what you’re listening to are their thoughts, feelings, and training philosophies as they ride. While Ride iQ’s lessons don’t provide you with the reactionary feedback that a set of eyes on the ground would, what they do supply you with is a framework for your own ride that attunes you to your own position and aids.
So much of riding is developing a feel for what is happening underneath you, and then developing your reaction time so that you can apply aids accordingly. While you may not have anyone on the ground watching you and telling you that you need more leg here or more flexion there, with Ride iQ you do have a trainer in your ear reminding you to keep your outside shoulder up and back while you ask your horse to bend around your inside leg. Since you’re listening while you’re riding your own horse, you can translate their ride into your own. The magic in Ride iQ lies in how it focuses your attention on your own ride and helps create good habits.
Now don’t get me wrong: Ride iQ won’t replace real-life lessons from a trainer who knows you and your horse, your history, and your goals. Having real-time feedback from someone watching you ride in the moment is a pretty hard thing to match. But Ride iQ is a great tool to supplement your training and a game-changer in particular for anyone who can’t take lessons in person regularly.
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I’m not an auditory learner, so how is listening to a lesson really going to help me?
I have never been able to simply listen (or read) and retain information. When I was in school I had to take word-for-word notes during lectures if I wanted to have any hope of absorbing information. While studying on my own, I had to write out whatever I was reading in order to retain the information — something about action of writing also helped to embed whatever I was studying into my brain. I’m telling you this to try and impress upon you how skeptical I was that auditory-only lessons would really work for me.
What I discovered about Ride iQ during just the first ride was that it really played to my affinity for kinesthetic learning instead. As the coach explains what they feel and what action they are taking in their ride, it’s much easier than I thought it would be to apply it to my own ride right then and there. My brain and my body didn’t have any trouble keeping up with the coach’s directives and it wasn’t a struggle to make sense of or retain the instruction since I was sitting on my horse and immediately putting the auditory cues into action. The coaches are all quite good at describing what they are feeling and why, and then what they are going to do about it and why. To my surprise and delight, riding along to the lessons actually turned out to be quite intuitive to me.
That said though, some of the lessons do have videos or diagrams that go along with them (mostly the pole work or jumping lessons) and when they do, they’re very easy easy to find and access.
If I’m riding along with an Olympian on an Advanced horse, am I going to be able to keep up with the lessons?
By no means am I a particularly experienced rider myself and my horse (pony, actually) is a 14.0hh Mustang/Arabian “mutt” mare that I got from a local rescue about ten years ago. If I phrase it like that, my horse doesn’t have a thing in common with any of the horses that the Ride iQ coaches are riding. But looks and experience level aside, let’s describe my horse differently: she’s a horse who tends to err on the side of behind the leg at first and needs a good amount of suppling before she works through her body, but she’s smart and tries hard to do what I’m asking.
If you phrase it like that then I bet my horse is a lot more similar to many of the horses being ridden in the Ride iQ lessons than it would seem on paper. I bet your horse is more similar to the Ride iQ coaches’ horses than you think too, and I bet that these rides will be more applicable and relevant than you might initially think as well.
You yourself might have more in common with some of the coaches than you think, too. For example: Kyle Carter and I both need to remember to bring our chins up and back instead of letting our necks stick out like a turtle when we ride. Even Olympians needs positional reminders! And as they remind themselves out loud to keep their hands low or their shoulder back as they ride, they’re reminding us in turn.
The trickiest thing I found in terms of “keeping up” with lessons had to do with my horse’s fitness level. My mare can’t canter on a 20 meter circle without a trot or walk break as long as Kyle’s Advanced mare can, for example. But that’s easy enough to remedy just by hitting pause. The coaches are great about reminding the listener to tailor the ride to their horse’s needs as well, and will often remind you that you always have the option to pause or to otherwise modify the ride to your skill and comfort level — and they’ll tell you how to modify it too, for example they’ll offer the option of sitting the trot or to keep posting.
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Okay, but is the content going to be at all applicable to me and my horse’s skill level?
There are lessons in Ride iQ for everyone. So yes, no matter how much experience you and horse your have (or don’t have) there will be plenty of content in Ride iQ for you. Speaking as a lower level amateur — both my horse and I have only been trained through the Beginner Novice level — there is certainly plenty for us to do within the app. Another of our EN team members, who is a trainer has competed through the Advanced level, will also be writing a Ride iQ review from a professional’s perspective, but my guess is that the majority of lessons are vastly applicable even for an experienced horse and rider pair. After all, the basics are the basics and we can all use to go back to them.
Lessons appropriate to your and your horse’s own skill levels are easy to find within the app’s interface. The Ride iQ lessons are neatly categorized by using a traffic light color code (green will be for the broadest skill level, orange will be more technical, and yellow is for everything in between) for easy identification. There are also plenty of rides geared specifically towards hot horses, tense horses, horses that get behind the leg, etc.Before you hit play for each ride, you’ll also and you’ll see a minute-by-minute preview of what the ride entails and it will be noted if proficiency in any particular skills are required for that lesson.
What if I find listening to audio while riding distracting and I hate wearing headphones/earbuds too?
Some people can listen to podcasts or music or whatever while they ride and have no trouble — I am not one of those people. Especially with podcasts I find it difficult to multitask and my mind wanders and drifts between what I’m doing and what I’m listening to. Neither end up having my full attention and I always have to rewind constantly because I miss things. I was concerned that I’d have this same trouble with Ride iQ, but again to my surprise and delight it wasn’t an issue for me. In fact, the lessons made me more focused on my ride and that focus kept my mind from wandering about. Again, there’s something about riding along with the coaches as they ride, instead of them talking at you, that made it all click for me.
I’ve also never been a fan of wearing headphones while riding — I have enough trouble getting AirPods to stay in my ears while I’m walking around my house — so I was a little worried about how I’d actually manage to utilize Ride iQ in a functional sense. I actually decided not to use any headphones or earbuds and I just stuck my phone in my breeches or jacket pocket on full volume. This worked totally fine for me and I didn’t have any trouble hearing the lessons throughout my rides. The audio is good quality. It also connected to my Apple Watch seamlessly without downloading any extra apps so I could pause or rewind easily if I needed to.
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You can call me a convert, I suppose! I had to try it to believe it, but I’m so glad I did and I’m really looking forward to continuing to ride with Ride iQ during the doldrums of winter in particular.
Let’s talk price for a hot second: signing up for Ride iQ is a bit of a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’re not into paying for apps, but if you think relative to the grand scheme of horse-keeping and training costs, it’s a drop in the bucket. Think about it this way: the $29.99 price tag when billed monthly is roughly, what?, about a third or less of a single lesson a good professional? So for a third of the price of a single lesson with a good professional you’re getting hours of guidance from additional experts that you have access to at all hours of the day. It’s kind of a bargain when you put it that way and there is loads of new content being added every. There’s also a live office hours session hosted weekly via Zoom where you can get your questions answered by the coaches, and you’ll also be able to access a very active private Facebook group full of other Ride iQ members and the coaches and co-founders as well.
Luckily, if you’ve been on the fence about trying Ride iQ, they’re planning to do a big and not-previously-announced Black Friday deal, but EN is getting early access. You can use the code ENVIP to get two months of Ride iQ membership for free (a $60 value), and that’s in addition to the one-week free trial!
The promo code will work for any of the three membership types: monthly ($29.99), quarterly ($79.99), or annual ($249). When applied to monthly, the first charge will not occur until nine weeks after sign up. When applied to quarterly or annual memberships, the first two payments will be discounted by $29.99 starting after the 7-day free trial. Promo valid for the first 250 uses.
Like I mentioned before, I could go on for quite a while about the usefulness of and the features within Ride iQ — I didn’t even cover the progression rides or the dressage test ride alongs in this review. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll keep checking back to answer them! But of course, the best way to see all that Ride iQ has to offer is to check it out it for yourself!