What Are You Practicing Today?

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Why being mindful when riding will help you progress your training.

Many of us horse riders train towards a goal; it can be a competition goal or just a personal achievement we imagine for ourselves and our horses. This overall goal is not enough in our daily training. We need to break the training down into smaller milestones that we can actually practice at. Yet when I ask riders what their focus for their ride today was, they don’t know.

If we want to progress we need to have an overall goal. And we need to set an agenda for the days training session. However, the agenda must not become so rigid that it doesn’t allow for changes or adjustments if the horse has a day off or if we’re suffering a headache ourselves. Therefore, I like to think of it as a focus, rather than a fixed plan.

This last week I have been practicing different things in the different riding sessions. To mention a few, I have had my focus on:

  • Being precise in my forward signal with leg and whip, being sure to improve the reaction time
  • Working on my posture, staying upright and light
  • Helping my horse to round/bend appropriately
  • Following and setting the rhythm

As you see these are quite vague goals – rather they are focus points. I can practice all of these things and still take the horses mood, experience level and other factors into account. It doesn’t matter if we’re having a bad or a good day. All of these focus points can be improved no matter the circumstances, so even on a bad day I’m able to finish better off than I was at the beginning. And throughout my training I have practiced skills that will help me in every session to come, which will in turn help my horse.

That is something else I like to do; do training sessions where the primary focus is on me. We all too often focus on the horse, wanting the horse to do this and that. And most of us forget ourselves in this equation. What I most often see blocking progress in the teamwork and team-efforts is the riders ability in various areas. Very often, as soon as we as riders manage a new skill, it almost instantly becomes available in our horse. As is so often seen when another rider tries out the horse and is able to manage what the owner was struggling with.

My Icelandic gelding Vinur and I practicing a little lateral bending to get some more supplesness - here succeeding quite nicely.- Here is my Icelandic gelding Vinur and I practicing at increasing the lateral bending to get more suppleness while I am trying to stay soft and balanced.

If we want to become better riders we need to practice. And the practice needs to be mindful and have a goal. This means that progress will be very difficult or take a long time to achieve if we just do as we always do day out and day in, riding without a particular idea of what we want to become better at (or maybe trying to become better at 10 different things at the same time!). If we want progress we should set ourselves one or two focus points for the training session, and preferably some that improve our skills as a rider – which means that they have to be directed at us and not the horse.

I want to use this week’s blog post to encourage you to set a focus for your training – preferably something that you want to practice with yourself. It will help your reach your overall goal faster and improving your skills immensely on the way, gaining skills that will stay with you with this mindful approach to your horse riding.

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