When you train your horse, do you have a strategy in mind for your ride? What goals do you set out to accomplish? Or do you just get on and see where you end up?

You can ride the same exercises every day and still never actually get better at doing them. Mastering your riding skill requires more than just riding around and hoping to get it right at some point. 

In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth (2017) describes deliberate practice as one of the key components of success. 

What is deliberate practice?

Deliberate practice contains 4 elements, according to Duckworth: 

  1. Set a stretch goal – something that is just beyond one’s reach at present but is attainable with effort.
  2. Focus – block out distractions like mobile phones, social media, TV etc. Focusing attention in order to do quality work is necessary to improve, yet today we face an unprecedented number of distractions that previous generations did not have to grapple with. Putting strategies in place to help us focus is vital.
  3. Seek feedback – experts are more interested in what they did wrong than what they did right. Feedback should be immediate and informative – it should pin-point certain aspects of performance to be worked on.
  4. Reflect and refine – this stage involves reflecting on what has been learned and what still needs more work, and then repeating the deliberate practice process again until we’ve achieved our goal.

This doesn’t have to be a time consuming process. You can formulate your goal while you’re walking your horse just before you start your warm up. Feedback can be from a trainer or someone else on the ground, or it can be the feedback you got from your horse during the ride. You can use cooling your horse down as the time to reflect and refine. 

Instead of using your phone while walking your horse, or worrying about your to-do list, or … use that time productively to improve your riding 🙂 

How can you use deliberate practice to get more out of your riding?