It is a mental game..
Throughout my career of riding horses, I have been told that riding is 50% horse and 50% rider. There is another aspect that is not given a percentage. That aspect is the mental one.
The mental aspect is prevalent in all sports; however, with horses it has been shown that they "feed" off of our emotions. This means that in the equestrian disciplines the mental aspect is times two. You are not only thinking and emotionally reacting for yourself but also for your horse.
With this in consideration, I have found that it is very important to be aware of your mental and emotional connection with your horse. I have noticed that sometimes we lose a part of that mental connection with them. It is not necessarily anyone's fault, but sometimes during the chaos of competition season we forget to have fun with our horses. What I am referring to by stating 'have fun' is taking mental breaks such as having a fun gallop in the field (not a gallop set, just a fun blow off of stress), taking a trail ride, riding bareback, doing some games (pony club style), or even playing around in a different discipline. Sometimes the best thing to do for you and your horse is just have a spa day, take them out and hand graze them, or teach them a new trick!
For each one of my horses, I find what relieves the most stress for them or what they have the most fun doing outside of their normal routine. One of them enjoys going on trail rides around the neighborhood, hand walking around the property, hand grazing, and going for a fun gallop. Another appreciates playing around with the barrel pattern, being ridden bareback, and hand grazing. After each time I give myself and my horses a mental break, we both feel more excited, our brains feel more clear, and our partnership feels stronger. Giving ourselves a break from the normal competition routine is something that allows me to reconnect with my horse on a mental and emotional level. After all, this is a relationship and sometimes we just need to reconnect to our partners.
Taking breaks are not signs of weakness, they just remind all of us how much we love our partners and how much they love us.