Sounds silly, but people often forget to breathe. They let their bodies tense up which causes a lot of other nasty things such as leaning too far forward, bracing with your legs, getting jerky & fast with your hands, losing your seat, and intern causing your horse to go . There have been studies that show when your heart beat speeds up, so does your horses. It is amazing what your horse can feel through you. So, take long deep breathes. Breathe in slowly, hold, then release slowly. This will not only slow your heart rate but it'll help keep you calm, your horse calm, help you think clearer, an improve your seat. Too many people when a horse starts acting up they automatically tense up, gasp, hold their breath and take ahold of the horse. This is about the worse thing you can do. Relax, remember to breathe.
Again, sounds so simple an silly. But you need to focus on feeling what is underneath you & what is in your hands. You need to look ahead, when you have your eyes set in a certain place & direction your horse is more likely to go that way. Looking up gives you a more confident look & feel. Constantly looking down is a nasty little habit. For one you need to look where your going so you don't run into anything But also looking down causes you to lean forward more, and possible tense. Don't worry the horse isn't going anywhere, no need to stare at him. Look up! Be confident in your riding skills. Be on a mission to go somewhere, and your horse will be too.
Ask yourself questions
What do I feel under me & in my hands?
While looking up you need to breathe deep and ask yourself what do I feel? Is he letting a shoulder leak out? Is he being heavy to the left or the right? Figure out what the problem is.
What can I do to fix this?
Once you establish what needs to be worked on ask yourself how do I fix this? This might take some asking around, some internet research, a trainer, or just a few moments to think. Do not be scared to stop and think for a while. Go ahead and put him away, its better to realize that you don't know how to fix something and stop; then to try to figure it out on your own and make a mistake.
Be slow with your hands
Too many people get fast and jerky with your hands. "Rough hands" or "Hard hands" is what its often called. If you want your horse to be soft in its mouth you need to be soft with your hands, rough hands make a rough mouth. But on the flip side when you do take ahold of the horse's mouth you want them to give. So what I do is when I take ahold of the horse's mouth is I try to go as slow as possible increasing the pressure as I continue. Once the horse gives to my pressure I soften or "release" my hands. Slowing down your hands will keep your horse calmer, help soften his mouth, and help you develop better feel.
Look for rewards
When training horses its the little things that count. Look for reasons to reward your horse. By rewards I mean release. Release as soon as your feel your horse doing what you asked correctly. Horses become heavy by people missing "rewards" and hanging on their mouths. This also applies to leg pressure. Once your horse moves off your legs release your legs. Missing rewards causes a horse to be heavy in the mouth and dull on its sides.
Do not pressure yourself
Take your time, training horses is a slow delicate process. Things do not happen over night, and it is so easy to create a bad habit if you do not know what your doing. No rush, no pressure. If you only rode for 15 minutes one day that is ok! Its ok to go back to basics to fix something. Too many people put pressure on themselves that things have to happen now now now. Even people who train for a living understand that horses move at different paces. If you need outside help then get it, there is no shame in asking for help. There are big time trainers out there who still get stumped and ask other trainers for input.
Having a good attitude towards what your doing makes all the difference in the world. Going out into the arena with a set goal such as "ok we are going to get both our leads today" or "today we are going to be a little more consistent". Do not set yourself up for failure by thinking your horse isn't going to be good. If you expect the worse the worse will usually happen. If you go out to ride with a negative attitude your more likely to get angry and take things personally. Remember its just a horse and there is always tomorrow. If you don't enjoy it, its not worth doing.
Get over yourself
Pride is a big problem for a lot of people when it comes to training horses. They have a big problem with admitting they need help. If you don't know what to do, admit that and find a way to figure it out. In a lot of cases people need outside help and trainers. Its perfectly normal to have a trainer, most people who show big time shows have trainers. Everyone has to start somewhere. Stacey Westfall didn't jump on a horse at the age of 12 and become a professional trainer. It takes work, your supposed to get stumped, to make mistakes that's how you learn. Asking and working things out is all apart of it. When someone criticizes you, don't take it personally. Realize that they are trying to help you or else they wouldn't say anything at all. Everyone needs help sometimes. The difference between ok horsemen and great horsemen is the willingness to always learn something new. Be open minded, its amazing what you will learn and accomplish.
I hope this helps anyone who needs it. If anyone has anything else to add please do.