No, I'm not talking about the bit, or the lead, nor the feed for that matter. Mentally, when you are riding your horse is the horse ON (going with purpose and focus, paying attention and following your cues) or OFF (moving forward, spooking, more or less having you as a passenger). My rides with Journey are changing. In the past we've done a lot of getting from point A to point B. Starting last week our rides are more than just a timed destination. Each trip out by necessity has turned into targeted training. Is she bracing up against right turns (because she wants the left fork in the trail)? Then we are going to pick up a trot and bend circles in that direction until she is soft. Does she want to turn for home? That means we are going to do serpentines the opposite direction. So is she breaking her gait going down a hill? We will repeat that hill (up down, up down, up down) fifteen times if we have to until she is ON the task correctly. If fifteen doesn't do it, then we will do it twenty. Did I ask for whoa and she stepped forward from the stop? Guess what, she's going to back up twice as many steps as she stepped forward. Taking this approach is making her more of a thinking horse, directing her attention ON me and what I'm asking, she works, and I mean really works, huffing, and puffing, and sweating. Teaching your horse to be ON is a whole lot more work than being a passenger. It takes more time too, as you can't just say "my horse is jigging but I'm short on time and need to get home so I'll address it some other day." No-----address it now. Right now. The extra half-hour here or there will save you hours of grief riding on trail.
What about you as the rider? Are you ON or OFF? As you trot down the trail is your mind on the recipe for dinner tonight or are you in the moment? Do you know when was the last time you changed the lead you were posting on? Are you cognizant of your horse? Loose rein? Contact? Leg position? Are you thinking about your place in these things? Or are you just slumping down the trail? Not everyone can afford the cost of lessons, and though those are the ideal, there is much you can do to become more in tune with your horse. When you are leading your horse on the ground, is the horse pushing past you? Horse is OFF. If you let him Rider is OFF. The perfect opportunity for some ground schooling. Keep your horse guessing enough that it doesn't see the horse eating rock because his focus is pointed like a laser beam on you the rider handler.
Every interaction with our horse is a training opportunity, so use it.