The first and most important principal to remember is to “pay attention.”

Pay attention to what your horse is doing underneath you. Learn to read your horse, to diagnose what he’s doing and what you are doing while you are riding him.

Shane Dowdy once told me that too many people ride “mindlessly”, that is, they don’t pay attention to their hands or their bumping, or what their horse is even doing underneath them.

I’ve told my amateur and youth riders for years that the best riders don’t ride along bumping their horse’s face and talking to their friends unless they can talk and really pay attention to their hands and horse. The best riders are so in tune with their horses that they know what their horse is doing at all times and if while they are talking they need to pick up or correct their horse they do it “mindfully” not “mindlessly”.

They focus and get the job done and it shows through their results. So start improving your feel and timing by paying attention while riding. You can only fix something if you become aware that there is a problem, so raise your level of awareness and develop better feel and timing.