At each of the recent annual Mark Rashid clinics, I've come away with specific assignments - an area of focus for my next riding year - sometimes these assignments naturally arise from what happens in the clinic and sometimes Mark specifically gives them to me.
In 2011, my assignment was about "allowing" - here's the post I did on that.
In 2012, I had two assignments - ride all my horses the same - here's the post on that - and developing my own style - here's the post on that.
In 2013, I had my lesson on Whisper, and my assignment was continue to do even less to get even more.
This year, I didn't have to ask Mark what my assignments for the year were - it was pretty clear from our work sessions.
Here's my list:
Do things with the horse - on the inside of you - not to the outside of the horse. Physical aids are fine, but use them as secondary cues for what you're doing on the inside of you. If you offer the horse the feel from the inside of you, the horse can connect to that.
Direct rather than react, and do it clearly but with softness and not abruptly - don't wait to see what happens or leave gaps in the connection with the horse.
Keep your focus only on what you want the horse to do, not on what the horse may be doing that may be unwanted behavior or on what the horse may be distracted by. Focusing on what the horse shouldn't do doesn't tell the horse what to do, and focusing on a distraction confirms for the horse that the distraction is worth paying attention to. Both take your eye off the ball - what you do want the horse to do.
While directing, get the timing of releases right to reward moments of softness. When using secondary cues (to avoid upping the primary cue), the timing must be instantaneous - don't leave a timing gap.
Leave only the opening(s) you want the horse to use - make sure you're giving adequate direction and are clear and precise. It's a good thing to be soft, but don't try so hard to be soft that the horse can't understand what you want.
If the horse keeps repeating a behavior you don't want or doesn't seem to be able to do what you do want (assuming that there's no physical problem for the horse), do a whole-body inventory (of you) to find the cause - the horse is very likely doing exactly what you've been asking the horse to do. And be sure that you're doing what you want the horse to do on the inside of you before, not after, asking the horse to do it.
And the big one, which underlies everything - softness isn't just about horsemanship, it's about life, and you have to build it into your whole life for it to be available in your horsemanship - it's not something you can just turn on and off.
There's a lot packed into those assignments - if anything's unclear, ask and I'll try to clarify.