Practicing or Training

Letís go into the difference in Practice and Training this month.  It is a subject that is so important and not widely talked about in western horse circles.  You will find it most discussed in Olympic athletes and or athletes on the level of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, etc.   Athletes who are far superior in their sports have a large understanding of these two subjects.  It will help us with our barrel horse if we can separate the two subjects and understand them both. 

When we practice, we repeat an activity or maneuver with the thought in mind to improve and eventually perfect that maneuver.  We practice correctly and methodically or the maneuver that we perfect will not be conducive to winning.  When we practice, we hope to eventually become automatic at the maneuver.  When we reach automaticy, our response requires no thinking.  Our brain and muscles are trained to respond immediately.  We also want to respond correctly and automatically if something should go wrong.  I want to say here that lessons are not to take the place of practice.  Lessons are simply an opportunity for a coach to see if you are practicing correctly.  I can tell when my students are practicing at home or just coming to lessons with no practice in between.  I can also tell when they are practicing correctly or incorrectly. 

We can say that practicing has to be correct and has to be repeated until we have our brain and muscles trained to be automatic.  I have read on coachís web sites that this will require about 360 CORRECT responses of a maneuver to reach the automatic stage.  We all know that we cannot practice 360 times a day on a horse.  But, we can go for a few correct responses each day until we reach the automatic stage.  PROGRESS Ė not PERFECTION is something that we practice here at the ranch.  Just try to improve a little each day and soon, you have reached the correct automatic stages in your practice.  An example of steady and thoughtful practice is going to your barrels and training both yourself and your horse to be in the correct place and in balance together.  You will go to point where you want your horse to pocket, sit down, say whoa, gather your horse, make the turn that you want, lean forward and leave the barrel.  When you repeat this over and over, your practice will soon result in a horse that will slow down and gather to make your turns and then speed away. This is very similar to what your car does when you drive it the same around curves.  You drive to the curve, put on the brake, make the turn, and then press the gas.  Do you have to think about it?  No, you have done it so long that it comes automatically. 

Training is another matter.  Training also requires practice, but will involve many things not necessarily related to the practice that you are doing on the pattern and the horse.  But, the training will enhance and improve everything that you do in your performance.  Why do you think that Tiger Woods disciplines himself to lift weights, eat correctly, constantly work on his thought life, and many other areas not related to hitting a ball with a club?   The training that Tiger Woods has done apart from hitting the ball and practicing for hours has literally brought the game of golf to a new level.  We can bring our own performance to a new level with training. 

We need strong abdominal muscles to ride a horse fast around three barrels.  We can achieve strong ab muscles by training them to be strong.  We need to have strong leg muscles to balance on a fast moving and turning horse.  We can achieve those no other way than by working them.  Muscles are only strengthened by stressing them beyond what they are familiar with.   Riding a horse is not an aerobic exercise.  Yes, it works us in more realms than any other exercise, but it does not improve the blood flow through you body because it is an anaerobic form of exercise.   Eating the kinds of foods that enhance our body functions will greatly improve our performance.  It has been proven that the proper foods will cause us to think quicker.  Wrong foods can cause our bodies to be sluggish and slow to respond. 

Training our mental game is another area that requires constant work.  We have to train ourselves to concentrate on the things that we can control.  We must bring our thought life into constant captivity and train our brain.  We train our brain to reject negative thoughts by replacing them with positive and productive thoughts until thinking positive has become automatic.  This is one area that needs to be transformed in many of us.  You will have a problem in this area if you were not raised in a positive atmosphere.  Donít let that become an excuse.  Some of us had to re-train our brains just as some horses have to be re-done because of previous training.  You can do this by constantly being aware of where your thoughts are and correcting them when they wander off to the negative. 

Think of some ways this month that you can began training in a way that will enhance the practice that you do.  There are some things that we cannot train for, such as riding down the alley way at your first National Finals Rodeo.  There are experiences that we have to go through to become familiar with a situation that we donít encounter every day.  BUT, if you practice and train correctly on your way up, you will find that when you get to the top of your goals, you will perform automatically and things will fall into place that you mastered on the way there.

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Last modified: January 05, 2014