A worthwhile practice session is so valuable but, unfortunately a bad session is very counterproductive. It really does no good to just ride around willy-nilly or practice doing bad circles etc. If you're only in the mood for a trail ride, go on a trail ride but, if you're ready to get some work done, make sure you're practice time is well spent! Here are some tips to help you have a productive and meaningful ride:
1) Be mentally ready before you ride. Stop thinking about work, the kids, or your commute. Focus on your horse!
2) Be present and alert. Be sure you are not reinforcing bad habits while you ride. Remember, every time you ride your horse you're either training him - or untraining him!
3) Make sure you are relaxed and not stiff. A stiff rider is an unfeeling and unyielding rider. Being stiff makes it nearly impossible to communicate with your horse.
4) Be self critical and constantly evaluate yourself and your ride as you practice. Again, don't practice bad habits! Ride with high expectations of you and your horse.
5) Before you ride, make a mental check list of things you need to work on and plan to focus on during your ride.
6) "Practice" in your mind before your actual ride. Think about proper techniques that you've been working on with your trainer or coach and how you're going to achieve results using those techniques.
7) When riding, always assess how your horse is going. If things are going well, make a mental picture of what it feels like so you can repeat it (or vice versa if things aren't not so good).
8) I believe in emphasizing the positive so, when working with your trainer or coach, make a mental "stamp" of that good ride you just had. Break it down piece by piece so you have a complete memory of it. When you're practicing, focus on that memory.
9) If something you're practicing isn't working, go back to a simpler move or a maneuver you know you and your horse can do. Build back both of your confidence then decide whether to try the difficult move again or perhaps even wait to try it with your trainer or coach.
10) Ask yourself how you and your horse can improve. What could be better? Make good use of your time and there will be rewards!
I hope this helps you during your next practice session! Talk to you next week. JD