I find myself often wondering "what is it I will be working on?" or better, "what is it I should be working on?" when I think about heading to the barn for a ride (as I am here now). It seems like there is a fine line between going into a ride with a clear idea of "I am going to work on this today" (a spin, a rollback, a circle, whatever), and "I am just going to ride and see what comes to me". I see benefit and concern in both of these thoughts ahead of getting into the saddle.
Firstly, especially as a rider with goals oriented and specific maneuvers to be worked on as far as competition, I do have clear ideas as to what needs to be "fixed" or worked on going into a ride. But I find that more often then not if I approach a ride with, "I am going to work on our circles today" or "today will be working on counter canter and lead changes" it tends to be a less than luster ride, or I end up not working on that specific element at all because something else arose. It seems that this method of "planning the ride" can seem rather ineffective - it also just sets the tone for demanding work instead of just allowing a ride, does it not to you? As someone who has approached many a ride this way, I know what the outcome can be sometimes, and sometimes it's good to know which things do need working on, but sometimes it also seems that it hinders the actual performance and dance, really, of the ride.
But on the other side of the spectrum are the rides that have no clear goal in mind. And I find that in these rides are the most harmonious. I tend to enjoy approaching a ride with no clear parameters in mind or things to work on and simply working on things as they emerge. Seems like a good way to go into a ride, right? Well, the concern that hits me with this is, from a competitors point of view, especially as someone who has clear maneuvers that need to be accomplished, the concern of how much I am really getting done. By not having clear goals in mind am I really getting as much accomplished in the ride as I could be? Things, admittedly, get forgotten about until I realize it hasnt been worked on in a while. I find it all to easy to just poke around the arena, jog this way, lope that way, repeat, and be done. Am I really utilizing the time in the saddle as well as I could be? Maybe this is just the trap that most amateur owner/riders fall into and why they remain as amateur owner/riders. Is this mindset that which separates the amateurs from the professionals?
What are your thoughts? How do you keep clear riding goals in mind without allowing the ride to become one that is pre-thought out and lacking harmony? How can we still make the most of the time we have in the saddle but still keep it fresh and "in the moment"? Because naturally, even in the best laid out plans, horses are living breathing animals with minds of their own and plans always need changing depending on the actions of the horse and what he/she needs that day. I guess I just find myself wondering how best to work on the maneuvers we need to get done while still enjoying my rides and time with my horse.