Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Thoughts on Practice

There are two main philosophies of practice:

1. Perfect practice makes perfect.
2. Practice is for mistakes.

If I'm being honest, I learned the first one a long time ago. I think it was actually one of those George Morris memes that I first saw it on years ago, and it stuck with me. This is a fantastic philosophy for the people who want to be really great technically.

My heels are the part of my position I'm most proud of daily.
Perfect practice does make perfect, really. If you're riding like a potato in practice, you can't expect to suddenly be perfect in the show ring. If you are sloppy with your practice of, let's say a leg yield, your execution of a leg yield in a show, clinic, or even just in a lesson will be the same: sloppy. You have to be able to auto-correct your ride. Sticking with my example of the leg yield, you must be able to feel whether or not the legs move over correctly, and you have to be able and know how to correct it.

The second philosophy has suddenly come into the news this year. I've seen this from multiple well-known riders, and I quite like it. The idea is that you can't expect to be perfect all the time in practice, or else you won't be able to continue to learn.
This was an out-of-the-comfort-zone jump for me at almost 2'9"

Practice is also for expanding your skills. If you want to raise the jumps, you can't expect to have perfect equitation over the bigger fences all the time. Asking for the flying lead change might lead to an expressive horse, but that's okay, it's just practice! I really like this philosophy as well. I think it's important to remember to challenge yourself, and practice is a great place to do that.

When I practice with Beau, I'm a very technical rider, and I like to be accurate. That means I'm slow to progress in the levels (even in practice), but my form and Beau's form gets better nearly every time I ride (at least I think we do!). So perfect practice is natural for me, but the practice is for mistakes is harder. That doesn't mean I don't make mistakes, but in a much smaller amount than a bold rider might. These days, practice is getting more and more about pushing myself and stretching my boundaries.

However, when I practice on a school horse (let's take Portia, for this example), I'm a much more bold rider. If you give me a horse that I know I can fly around on safely, I'll happily raise the rails and test myself. For some that might make them think that my relationship with Beau isn't a good one, but it's actually the opposite. I want Beau and me to be perfect because I know we can be. I want to shape him into the best horse he can be. That means taking the time to polish the basics and taking my time. I'm perfectly okay with that, although he is quickly becoming a fantastic horse.

What's your favorite motto for practice?

Practice hard, smile, and have fun!


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