I recently heard from a former student, who is now a trainer, as to some struggles she is having with riders on her interscholastic team around improving their riding. Her problem is she sees them only once a week and that is in a group lesson. Some compete at the more advanced levels but they really need to improve their riding skills. She told me she works hard and offers all types of feedback but they are not really improving.

The Responsibility for Improvement is in the Rider’s Hands

This was my response:

You can only do so much in a short session and sounds like you are doing as much as you can. I think I would place the responsibility for improvement in their hands. Maybe sit them down and have them create an intention as to what it is they want to accomplish in the long run. Then ask them what things they could do to make that happen. Have them create short term goals to their long term intention. Intention is about purpose. Ask them how they want to come to the table as riders. They have to do all of the work between lessons to improve and build on what you tell them. You can have them analyze, honestly, but without self-judgment, why they are not doing well at the shows and why others are. Then have them take responsibility in making the necessary changes to accomplish their goals. They can mindfully practice between lessons, read books and watch all sorts of videos of great riding in order to improve. I have often had riders come to lessons with no improvement because they did not put in the work in between lessons. All they would do is WTC around the ring with no purpose in their daily rides. I got over being frustrated by this by telling them it is their choice to improve and asking them what they choose to do. When they decided to come to the table willing to do the work I would help them lay out a plan to reach their goals.

Letting Go of the Outcome

Does that make sense? I have been listening to several days of interviews of leaders in the work of mindfulness via a Sounds True Mindfulness Summit and it is all about our choice to do the work. One woman said that in athletics or anything really, when we focus on the outcome, and the ego attachment that is around that, we don’t do well. If we stay present in the moment and do the work we have success. She said top athletes who get distracted by focusing on an outcome while doing their sport often fall apart. So, it is important for anyone to focus on building mental and physical skills in the moment and to take responsibility for self-improvement. Does that all make sense? In a nice, but firm and non-judgmental way make them take ownership of their riding and life.

Creating a Daily Practice

The reason I am sharing this that we all need to come to the table with an intention for what we want to be and where we want to be. Then we need to lay out that plan and do the work. We can have wonderful teachers and they can be great inspirations. But, if we don’t put in the effort and do the work it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have. The knowledge you have must be applied, practiced and developed. Meditation and mindfulness are called practices for that reason. It is the student’s responsibility to study, do the work and come to the mat daily and practice. It’s no different in riding. So, here’s to a good daily practice!