Not interested in the competitive benefits, but I like the mental preparation no matter what activity to be undertaken.  May sound odd, but I think it applies to trail riding as well.  While there’s nothing wrong with making it up as you go, I prefer to have some kind of a general plan in mind before I begin.  I like to sketch out a basic timeline, mostly because I want to be sure and get in as many meals and snacks as I can.  I’m not comfortable being one of those “Oh, I forgot to eat” people.

Also one of my favorite adages:  A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting, from MyHorseDaily site.  Check it out.

From Reining to Hunt Seat: Engage Your Mind to Ride a Successful Pattern

Goal: To mentally “map” arena landmarks, then visualize riding to them, so you’ll know exactly where you should be — and where you should go next — on a pattern at all times.

Benefit: You’ll boost your pattern’s accuracy, and avoid losing your way as you negotiate it, which can lead to missed markers, sloppy maneuvers (such as poorly shaped circles), going off pattern, and other points-off–or zero-score–errors. Plus, you’ll net a strong dose of confidence from being mentally prepared for your run, thereby gaining a competitive edge.