Many people would think sticking to a horse must be one of the top skills needed. It's not! All good riders fall and it's no prerequisite for judging riding skills. Actually the skills you will need are these:
Common Sense and the ability to ignore your ego (stay safe and make good decisions).
Confidence in riding ability (balance & knowledge).
The ability to see and stop a reaction before it happens (attention to details).
A good horse that you make a great horse.
If you have these four things you will have the time of your life in the cavalry and you will be able to do all of the things we do. This includes, being in control, riding in formation, riding at speed, jumping obstacles, saber and pistol course, shooting from horseback, competent sabre use, ability to be a courier, ability to take a hit from horseback and much more.
How to develop the skills you need.
Ride often to develop timing and consistent work on your horse.
Take riding lessons on your horse or on a schooling horse - even great riders need lessons!
Build confidence in your abilities by evaluation of your methods and whether they are working.
Do you remember when you first learned how to drive a car with a standard transmission? It was confusing and you made many mistakes initially. However, with practice, your familiar routine of driving your car made shifting and use of interior instruments second nature. This is how you must get with your horse, all normal riding must become second nature to you so you can concentrate on other things. Riding often will get you there. Riding lessons will give you skills you may not have known. Riding other horses will help open your horizons even more. Riding is not an exact science, you need to develop awareness. You need to understand how a horse thinks and what his rewards are in order to get good performance. You need to develop TIMING to know when to give a signal and when to release.
Seven things your horse needs in order to be a great horse.
A good whoa.( whoa means STOP your feet)
Respond appropriately to leg and seat signals.
Keep steady in the gait you ask without slowing down or speeding up.
Move in any direction with slight leg pressure.
Relax after a gallop and not be hyper.
Calmly able to withstand all gunfire and battlefield movement.
Become sensitive and trust your commands.
Can you imagine what a joy a horse trained as above would be to ride? Can you imagine how much you could give to your unit if you could be depended on in this way? As a skillful rider you can be asked to do anything reasonable and you will be able to do it with confidence and safety.
Commanders of cavalry must keep their orders gauged to the less skilled riders in the troop, otherwise they put the safety of the troop at risk and those unskilled individuals in particular. Training will help, working in formation and riding with the troop but nothing takes the place of time in the saddle while you push yourself to improve This many times means going beyond your comfort level.
Practice: Controlled falls!
You can practice controlled falls from horseback. This will give you confidence and will relax those who are fearful of falling off. It will also give your horse practice in whoa. The falls are done initially off a short calm horse. You can let yourself down easy on the right and left of the horse and over his rump, landing on your feet. Then you can practice doing the same thing but landing on your side. Once you master the controlled fall you will be much more confident.
Practice: Without stirrups & reins!
If you practice without stirrups and even without reins while being long lined or in a round pen you will develop your seat and balance. Too many of us rely on our stirrups for balance. This causes saddles to rotate on the horse's back and some pretty impressive wrecks. Done often you will gain confidence in your balancing abilities and they will become second nature to you.
"What's a transition?" you say. It's the "change of gears" from one gait to the next up or down. With practice and perseverance you can have your horse taking the canter from a standstill if you develop the skills to set him up for it and knowledge in teaching him how. This means your horse has to be supple and sensitive to leg cues to move parts of his body around. You need to be able to know what leg he is using while riding also.
Practice: Cavaletti & Jumps
Open your horizons, diversify the walk, trot and canter round in a circle approach to riding and work your horse over cavaletti. It will really help you balance. Use a neck strap at first so you don't hit your horse in the mouth with your reins. Hold both the neck strap and the reins, this will help keep your hands steady.