There was a time when I practiced my riding so randomly I never saw any real progress. I really didn’t know what to practice exactly and what I should be experiencing as progress. I couldn’t see the game plan for the development of my horse and me towards a specific result.
It is the nature lessons to build on previous instruction. This is why the student doesn’t usually retain an ability to repeat, adjust and improve when they ride on their own. Lessons give students a series of exercises and the coach has a picture of where the process is going. The student rider should write the lessons down to help remember the details later.
Here’s what you should include in your notes:
· Recall what the coach was saying, and include as many key phrases that you heard
· Draw the pattern of the exercises that you rode during each lesson
· Connect the phrases to the exercises
A trained coach will have said a few “key phrases” during each exercise and if you can place them in your drawing you will have a very good outline of the lesson to follow in your practice.
Next, try to recall any explanations of the key phrases. These would be short answers to questions you asked. It could be an explanation of how to use the aids or a description of a feeling that you were to be looking for. Finally, it could be a short relatable story that the coach shared to get a point across. The more you can recall about your lesson the easier it will be to replicate the experience and keep progressing between coach visits.
Be fair to your horse during this learning process because it is learning too. It is trying to sort out the aids that you are applying and it is sifting the Intel through the numerous pressures that you may not even be aware that you are applying. Guaranteed, your horse will respond to the pressure that is most evident to it in the moment.
As painful as this may be, include any rider faults that your coach reveals to you. There are many very common rider errors that occur and you should add them to your notes. Sometimes only one shows up or a combination may be present. In a lesson, a coach will sort them out for you. If you have made notes - you’ll be sorting things out.
A rider will take a lesson and feel good about what occurred. Later, when practicing they are unable to repeat the success experienced with the coach present. Discouraged they fill the week with activities that are more fun.
This is where I return to “Your Playbook”. By keeping notes you will be able to build calm, confidence in yourself and your horse with CONSISTENCY in your practice rides. You will never escape the basics and your horse will always need reinforcement of patterns and routines to give you the best rides going forward. Bonus … it is personal for you and your horse!
Isn’t consistency boring? I promise that it won’t be when you hold yourself to it and you begin seeing great results.
How much consistency - which is repeating and practicing the lessons and the details from your notes? I would strongly suggest you apply the 80/20 rule here. Out of a possible five rides in a week, do your practice for four (80%) and have a casual ride out if you are experienced with that or just have undemanding time strengthening your connection and communication from the ground (20%). Generally, you will maintain your ability with two practices each week. You will see improvement if you do three or more each week. You will be amazed if you balance your practice with casual activity on the five sessions per week schedule as suggested.
Be encouraged! The only way that you will not progress is if you do nothing - so treat yourself and your horse to your personalized plan designed to make progress enjoyable for you both.