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  • Maddy Brown

The Value of Practice

Growing up, I played a couple of team sports in addition to riding: basketball and volleyball. Playing team sports is definitely great for kids. It teaches them responsibility, determination, commitment, teamwork, synergy, and the value of practice. More often than not, riding is considered an individual sport and I'm not here to convince you otherwise or to harp on the team aspect of riding, as I have many times before. Instead, I'm here to discuss the value of practice.


Let's choose a team sport to use as an example. I'll use basketball.


Basketball players have teammates and a coach. They have formal practice multiple days per week before the season begins and during the season, along with games of course. The players go to formal practice, where the coach teaches them new techniques or builds on improving old ones. At practice, they also focus on working well with their teammates and building a rapport with them that serves them well on game days. When they build relationships during practice, they build trust and instinct. They get to be on the same page.


Outside of formal practice, the players will practice more at home, honing the techniques and skills they worked on during formal practice. They'll stand in the driveway or on the local court shooting free throw after free throw or practicing from the three point line until it becomes effortless. When they go back to formal practice, their coach notices their improvement from the time spent working on their own. During the games, all of the extra practice pays off as the pressure builds and the player is able to deliver thanks to the hours they spent in the driveway honing their skills.


Sometimes, because they just love the game, the players will also just play for fun. They'll pick up a game with friends during recess or after school, or play a hame of HORSE with their little brother at home. This fun time within the sport is important, too, as it allows the athlete to continue to improve while doing it in a casual and relaxed way.


Now, let's talk about riding.


Riders have teammates (their horses) and a coach (their trainer). They have formal practice (lessons) at least once a week before the season begins (winter) and during the season (everything else), along with horse shows. The riders go to lessons, where the trainer teaches them new techniques or builds on improving old ones. At lessons, they focus on working well with their horses and building a rapport that serves them well on horse show days. When they build relationships during lessons, they build trust and instinct. They get to be on the same page.


Outside of lessons, the riders will practice more on their own, honing the techniques and skills they worked on during the lesson. They'll work in the arena on improving their sitting trot, make walk to canter transition after walk to canter transition, canter over a million poles until it becomes effortless. When they go back to lessons, their trainer notices their improvement from the time spent working on their own. During the shows, all of the extra practice pays off as the pressure builds and the rider is able to deliver thanks to the hours they spent in the ring honing their skills.


Sometimes, because they just love the sport, the riders will also just ride for fun. They'll go on a trail ride with friends or ride bareback with their favorite horse. This fun time within the sport is important, too, as it allows the athlete to improve while doing it in a casual and relaxed way.


I believe I've made my point. I may not have you convinced that riding is a team sport, but I imagine you see the similarities. Diligent practice outside of lessons is what makes all the difference. When you do the work in lessons and on your own, your teammates and coach will thank you and your performance under pressure will improve greatly. The value of practice is the opportunity to improve yourself for yourself, your horses, and your trainer, to better yourself for the good of the team and the good of your own aspirations.


Ribbons aren't won at horse shows. They're won at practice, they're just picked up at horse shows.


So get out and do the darn thing!




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