You take lessons and attend clinics. You read books and magazines and watch training DVDs. You scan blogs (like this one!), Web sites, and newsletters, and you even pick the brains of your fellow horse enthusiasts at the barn and online in chat rooms and forums. You?re always on the alert for information that will help you become a better rider and more knowledgeable horse owner. And, in this cyber-driven Information Age, you're getting plenty of good input.
But--and this is a big but--are you putting that knowledge to its best possible use? Just knowing something, after all, doesn't cut it. You must use information--routinely--in order for it to change you as a rider and make a difference to your horse. Good advice does no good unless you find a way to make following it habitual.
That's what the little list below is for. These small but powerful strategies will enable you to keep the best information in the forefront of your mind long enough for you to internalize it and make it your own.
These are techniques that have worked for me in my horse life and beyond. To make them work for you, follow these steps whenever you find a useful bit of information or instruction you want to hang on to.
Write it down. Yes, it's mundane, but simply writing something down does two powerful things for you. First, it enables you to retain the information and keep it in front of you (more on that in a moment). Also, the mere act of writing it (especially if you do it manually, although keyboarding works, too) helps to program the information into your brain more permanently. So if that DVD you're watching shows you the perfect way to deal with, say, your horse's reluctance to pick up his left lead, write down that information so you can begin make it your own.
Keep it visible. Here's the clever part. Group two or three key bits of information onto card stock or colored paper (using markers and stars or arrows or whatever will grab your attention) and post them where you'll see them every day. Consider the bathroom, the front of the fridge, the entry to your tack room. Also post them where you can ride up and check them, to remind yourself, when you're practicing in your arena. Then, once you've gotten one of the tips firmly planted in your brain (for example, you always remember to warm your horse up in that great sequence you learned at the clinic), then replace that bit of advice with a new one you're trying to imbed. Keep the postings fluid, and you won't stop "seeing" them--they'll continue to grab your attention.
Put it in a journal. A riding journal is a great way to track your progress over time and to integrate all the improvements you're working on at any given moment. Use a spiral notebook or one of those blank books available wherever regular books are sold. Or keep your journal in a file on your computer or your smart phone--whatever's most natural for you. You can even use your journal as the first place to write down the great tips you're accumulating, then copy/paste out the ones you want to work on immediately, printing them out together on a single sheet that then becomes your little poster on your bathroom mirror and in your arena.
Once you've got your system in place, use it to keep from ever losing a good tip or suggestion. Read a good book? Don't just recommend it to your friends; also write down and post the strategies you plan to try yourself. Have a great lesson? Don't rely on your memory--write down the techniques you learned so you can practice them all week--and amaze your instructor with your progress at your next lesson.
Do the same with all the good info that comes your way, and you'll be amazed at how much faster you'll progress. Here are some training secrets to get you started.