Keep It Simple, Stupid

What do you think about in the saddle?

Energy? Bending? Flexion? Straightness? Collection? How responsive the horse is? Your seat? Hand position? Leg position? Whether your heels are down enough? Which aids you should be using? The figure you should be riding? Your goals? The next figure? The quality of the movements? Where you should look in the arena? How are you ever going to train your horse up to Grand Prix?

I struggled for years with constant internal chatter when I rode. I thought I had to think about it all–regularly, on repeat– to become the rider I wished to be. I didn’t understand how the great riders did it. I thought I had to keep it all in my head, and keep checking on everything.

The truth was– they didn’t and I don’t.

Horses can’t multi-task. Neither can we, really. [Want proof? Try writing down the alphabet while simultaneously saying your address. See how well that works for you.] Trying to do everything, all at once, is not only a waste of energy, but it is difficult for the horse to follow.

Layering is a better approach.

Start at the bottom and work up. From just-broke 3 year old to schoolmaster. From forward to self-carriage. From Training Level 1 to Grand Prix.

Let your mind be still and clear, then add things in, one at a time, until what was initially a thought becomes second nature to both you AND the horse. Habits must be created.

When a mentor finally clued me in, I couldn’t believe how easy everything became. My riding– and the horse’s progression– skyrocketed. It was unfathomable.

As my coworker likes to say, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Indeed.

Is your approach best described as “all at once”  or do you layer one habit on top of another?