A lovely article was published recently in The Chronicle of the Horse titled Don’t think, just do, and referred beautifully to the virtues of leaving thought behind and going on autopilot.
Wonderful indeed assuming that one’s autopilot has the needed experiences to draw from for the task at hand. Autopilot is a cultivated resource that, like a well, is a deep reservoir where experiences gathered from various situations during various conditions are held for future use. It is not a magic bullet that some have and others don’t.
So how is the autopilot well filled? Is it simply the amount of time spent in the saddle or is it less quantitative than that?
I would say that if it were simply a matter of time in the saddle more riders would progress more quickly. The resource available to riders to amass the autopilot resource is awareness.
Taking time during each ride to notice small differences, such as is the lower back free to move or is it being held tightly, and the big differences they make, floating over a jump or being left behind, feeds your brain with the information needed to fill the autopilot well.
This way, each ride, every ride, enriches the rider’s autopilot resource so when the time comes thought can be put aside and autopilot can let them fly!