No matter what you are learning, it seems as though the instructor is always saying:
This advice usually comes when you are performing poorly. For example, when you having a bad ride during a lesson, you might be aware that your mind is not focused on what you are doing. You know that if you don't pay attention, you won't learn anything, so you tell yourself to concentrate. This attempt to force yourself to concentrate only results in a tight jaw, stiff shoulders and arms, and aids that are so quick that they tighten and force your horse's movement. When this happens, focusing attention is difficult because you are concentrating on "trying to concentrate", rather that relaxing, learning and getting into your ride. As a result, you don't feel your horse or his movement. Instead you have substituted one set of distractions for another. This action will also increase your tension, thus increasing your horse's tension.
The first thing that you need to do is realize that when concentration is difficult and strenuous, it is no longer concentration. You must develop "relaxed concentration". A child at play is an excellent example of this practice. A child's mind is totally absorbed and engaged in what he is doing. He does not need to think about his activity, he just does it. His attention is completely focused on whatever he is doing, even though it may not last that long. A cow horse is also a good example. When he is waiting for the cow to come out of the gate, he stands still in the center of the ring with his eyes focused on his target. This comes naturally to him because it holds all of his interest. That is the key. You will find that is true to whatever you do in life. If you are truly into something, it will work for you.
As a rider, you are at your best when you are not trying so hard to concentrate, but when what you are doing holds all of your interest. When you are watching a really good movie, you don't need to remind yourself to look at the screen. You have an acute interest in it. It's simple logic, where your interest is, so is your mind. If the interest is strong, concentration will follow. However, if the interest is weak, attention will be easily distracted. To learn relaxed concentration, you must forget about all of your doubts and worries such as: What if my horse won't pick up his lead? What if I forget the pattern? What if I give my horse the wrong cues? These thoughts can control you and wreck your time with your horse and your learning experience.
To develop the relaxed concentration you must be able to have a direct interest in what you are doing with your horse. You need to be responsible and spend the appropriate time to accomplish the preparation to succeed and be willing to learn new things. Eliminate all negative thoughts and don't occupy your mind with other things. Just think about what you are doing at that moment. If you are prepared, your horse is also prepared. Create a great experience for you and your horse and stay focused for both of you.