In this article I will be sharing some of my tips for creating a partnership between you and your equine friend, in essence how to become a partner with your horse. In other words, a climate in which you can maintain training session sanity and where you both come out winners.
If you are working with more than one horse at a time keep a journal of each training day. For example:
- Which horse did you ride?
- What exercise(s) you were seeking to train?
- How did your horse perform during that maneuver?
- What exactly did you want to accomplish during the session? Did your horse resist the learning and were his motions fluid?
- Was he/she distracted by activities going on outside the ring and/or was your horse attentive during the session?
And plan on keeping a journal; it will help you each and every time you ride, because it will also prevent repeating the “so called” mistakes either by him or you.
Do you have a plan?
Just like running a business, always begin your training session with a plan, and know what you’d like to accomplish. You need to know what to look for from your horse within each session. If you set a realistic expectation, if you have a clear picture in your mind of what you would like to accomplish each riding day, you’ll achieve your goals for the development of the animal.
If you are working with a young horse, try to minimize distractions during your session. Sometimes it is beneficial to be the only horse in the ring at that time, but that isn’t always possible. When it is not, try to ride with well trained horses. This will minimize distractions and the possible “blow up”. Horses are social beings, just like people are.
And don’t overlook the ground work, which is extremely beneficial for young horses. Watch him move, observe his body language, and he/she will learn certain words such as “whoa”, “walk”, “easy”, “trot”, and other words. I have trained several 2 year-old youngsters, in an enclosed round pen and developed their ability to change direction using only hand gestures and my voice.
A horse will usually learn a move in only a few repetitions. Don’t place too much emphasis on one particular movement, though, as this can lead to a discouraged horse and create boredom. Don’t think he/she has read your training journal (he hasn’t) but ne sensitive to the fact that he/she can interpret your mood and read your body language. Always be direct and make your requests obvious to your horse, and if your horse performs a movement perfectly the first time, understand that is likely because you made the request in a clear and direct manner. Then continue on.
Depending on the movement difficulty, you may have to break a specific movement into small steps, “illustrating” each step in the maneuver slowly and in a concise manner each time. Be patient and recognize any attempts by your horse to push back, but don’t fight with him; he may not understand exactly what you are asking. Take your time and remember that you want to build a lifelong relationship with your horse.
Take a break
During each training session, be sure to give your horse an opportunity to relax. I find that loosening the reins will often trigger a relaxation response, noticeable because the horse will usually stretch his neck, something they enjoy. It may also be interpreted as a reward. Change directions often or as you feel necessary, to eliminate the boredom going around in a circle the same way for a length of time. Cyclists know the best way to find a new route is to ride an old one backwards.
And, remember to always end the training session on a positive note.
Construct and follow a realistic plan, and provide your horse relaxation breaks during each training session, and you will become one with your horse. After all, isn’t that what we are all in search of? However, if you have given correct requests and are still having issues with his/her progress, my suggestion is to have the animal evaluated by a veterinarian, because this may reflect possible muscle or joint issues.
Your horse may also benefit from bodywork by a certified equine massage therapist, as well as other natural therapies. These therapies will help keep your horse physically fit, reduce stress, and rid the body of the build-up of toxins from training. They will also help prevent future injuries from tight muscles. Each new movement may use muscles in a different manner, these muscles need time to adjust.
I hope this brief explanation will provide a cursor on how to become a partner with your horse. When it happens, it is a very satisfying event for you and for your horse.