Four Tips To Help You Ride By Instinct

Learn How to Let Go, Trust Yourself, and Tap Into Your True Talent and Skill

Do your hands and seat come naturally and spontaneously … or … do you analyze everything you do?

Try this test:

Crumple up a piece of paper and set a trash can 15 feet away.  Your objective is to toss the paper into the basket using two patterns of thought.

On your first toss, focus on the mechanics of throwing.  Analyze how your hand must open to release the paper.  Think about the angle of your elbow, the position of your hand, and the rotation of your shoulders as you throw.  With all these thoughts spinning in your head, make your toss.

Now try throwing the paper by simply getting a picture in your mind of what you want to happen.  Rehearse the feeling of a perfect toss.  Imagine the paper dropping into the center of the basket.  Now hold that image and make your toss.  Trust your body to do the work as guided by your mind.

You will probably produce more baskets.

The same is true for any discipline or style of riding.  The best riding is automatic, intuitive, and instinctive.

Of course, as we learn new riding skills, we have to break things down analytically to improve our mechanics.  There’s no way around step-by-step thought in the learning process.

But that is just the beginning.  Early on in your progression you can consciously accelerate your skill acquisition by riding more instinctively.

Riding by Instinct

As you practice techniques that develop more feel, you’ll begin to trust your decisions, or use your feet appropriately, or keep your hands low … all more automatically and “in-the-flow” instead of feeling like a disjointed robot!

Try these four tips and watch your true talent and skill come to life.  And … as you make the transition from analytical to instinctive riding, you’ll have more fun.

1.  Use mental videos to imagine what you want to do before you do it.

All great riders have developed the ability to get an image of a smooth ride before they do it … out on the trail, or a great jump, or an elegant reining spin, or nose-to-nose rhythm with a cow.

Images are incredibly powerful.  They work to your advantage by automatically programming your mind and body for success.

One of your jobs is to have fun with these mental images.  This is important!

So, let your imagination run wild.  The videos should feel magical, like something you can step into.  They can also feel like a relief to you because you are “letting go” of the analysis and rolling with the flow.

You can also try mentally becoming your favorite rider as an experiment to help you get the hang of it. Then, put your own spin on it.

Play with the image until it feels good.  Keep playing it over and over and enjoy the experience!  The more positive emotions, like energy, calmness, confidence, and fun you add to your mental videos, the better … and the more pleasant and powerful.

2. Work on rhythm and tempo to smooth out mechanics.

Instinctive riding is smooth and non-robotic.

Coach yourself to feel the rhythm.  Before and during your ride, remind yourself, “Feel the rhythm.  Feel the rhythm.”

Sometimes counting or repeating a tune or a phrase can re-establish flow, too.

3. Steady your breathing.

Become aware of your breathing and simply let the air flow in and out of your abdomen when possible.

Be easy about this.  A focused breathing pattern can help you blend the mechanics with the intended rhythm of your entire ride or any part of it.

4. Use phrases with feeling words to coach yourself as you ride.

Brainstorm phrases that automatically trigger the right moves.  Be sure and add these scripts to the mental videos you’ve been practicing (#1 above).

For example, if you say “Smooth, soft, low hands”, that is much better than, “Keep your hands down and stop being jerky”!

“Stay aggressive” could help you remain offensive in a situation without overdoing it.

“Scan out front” evokes more softness and a broader visual field than just, “Eyes up”.

Combine the necessary information of analytical thinking with a mindfulness for instinct, rhythm, and flow.  Now you’ll have it going on and be in the groove more quickly and consistently!

About the Author:

Author Barbra Schulte

Barbra Schulte is a personal performance coach for all riders, a cutting horse trainer, author, speaker, and  clinician.  Visit her Blog and signup to receive her FREE monthly email newsletter, “News From Barbra”.  You will also receive the high performance secrets of great riders, inspiration, cutting strategies,  news, and much more.  In addition, you will also receive via email Barbra’s special FREE report: “Five of the Most Important Skills of Riding”.  Go now to

Thank you Barbra for sharing this great article.  We look forward to sharing more of your great tips that can be applied to barrel racing. ~ Michelle

Readers,  please check out the other great resources Barbra has on her website including and audio CD specifically for barrel racers! 

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