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Perfect practice makes perfect

by Sheryl Lynde - June 1st, 2017 - Trainer Tips, Training

Trainer TipsSkill is not always something innate. It is also a product of actions and intensive practice. According to the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, research shows that individuals we regard as prodigies reached their level of status by amassing about 10,000 hours or more of practice. What separates a top performer or competitor from another is the amount of work they have committed to develop their ability.

If you want to cultivate your talent and overcome plateaus, you need to take action and develop a technique to strengthen the way you train. The adage “practice makes perfect” isn’t accurate. “Perfect practice makes perfect” is more precise. Targeting areas for improvement while in the saddle will enhance your abilities and take you to new heights. Your ability isn’t controlled by genes; it’s controlled by your dedication to put in the time it takes to achieve your goal. Practice with a purpose to get better. Horsemen at the top of their game work substantially harder than everyone else. We are in a hurry to acquire skills, but I can assure you, there is no shortcut. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Getting Started : Set a goal.
Goals are triggered by a connection to an activity that inspires you to strive to be better than your current level of ability. There is always someone better than you, so learn from them. Observation is another opportunity to learn while out of the saddle. Scrutinize the movements of your mentor or role model. It’s extremely effective to repetitively view pictures or videos of a top professional performing specific tasks that you aspire to achieve prior to a practice session. Really dissect and digest their movements, watch their hands, legs, and body position in the saddle. Spend 15 minutes a day engraving the skill on your brain. An episode of 60 Minutes featured tennis coach and author Timothy Gallwey. He had gathered together a group of middle aged women who had never played tennis. He gave them all a brief test of their skills and then chose a woman whom he felt showed the least promise. Galwey began hitting a forehand while the woman watched. He asked her to pay attention to his stance, how he held the racquet, and the rhythm used in hitting the ball. After watching, she began to copy what she saw, and within a short period of time, she was hitting a decent forehand. And so it begins. The woman had the beginnings of a foundation. You want to watch so closely that you can imagine the feeling of performing at the level you are observing.

Progress and improvement is born out of perfecting small actions over time. It’s not about the big things; it’s all about the little things. When you acknowledge and own your mistakes, you can make a game plan. You have to allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, and at times to feel totally inept. Risk your reputation. Your reputation is merely a perception held by others that you have no control over. A trainer once told me that everyone watching is supporting your success, and if they are not, they aren’t the kind of equestrians that you want to align yourself with.

You don’t have to be a competitor to want to improve your skills. Safety is always a great motivator for both you and your horse. Slow down and get back to the basics. When you feel you have made a mistake, stop. You will get more out of your training if you make a correction as soon as it is needed. For instance, if you are loping a circle and your horse wants to dive in or drift out of the circle, it isn’t a one-time occurrence. Your horse will reveal the areas that need work while completing the first circle, so make the correction now. Do not continue loping 20 circles allowing him to drift in and out, hoping he will settle into a decent circle. If he dives in, make sure it isn’t you that is causing it by dropping your shoulder. Sit square in your saddle, shoulders level, and slightly behind your hips. You should be applying a bit more pressure on your outside sit bone which allows you to use your legs appropriately.

Where are you looking? Are you looking at the back of his head, or are you looking where you want to go? By pinpointing the areas you want to improve, and making the appropriate corrections, progress is imminent. When you ignore your mistakes, you stay at the level you currently are, or slowly digress. Mistakes are a road map to success down the road only if you pay close attention and learn from them today.

Your efforts will be rewarded. I guarantee it.


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