Expectations…what do you expect from your horse? A blue ribbon at a show, a wonderful trail ride in the forest or a safe and reliable horse that even a small child can ride?
Regardless of whether you are training your horse for the show ring or for pleasure riding training your horse should be gradual and progressive. In order to obtain the ability of the horse to perform physically and in comfort as well as develop a healthy mental attitude one must commit time and effort to the endeavor.
Horses are generally couch potatoes. Unless they are very young foals they tend to spend the majority of their time quietly grazing their pasture without exerting much effort. Although they may look incredibly strong they are not fit for work unless they are involved in regular exercise. Horses that are ridden once or twice a week, or once or twice a month are going to fatigue quickly. Physical harm involving ligaments, tendons, muscles and skeleton can easily occur with the horse that is unfit. Additionally, mentally a horse can become despondent or show it’s fatigue or discomfort with bad behavior.
What amazes me is the number of people that will speak up during lessons about their own fatigue or soreness and yet think nothing of how hard or long the unfit horse is ridden.
For over four decades I have worked with people in helping them train their horses. I try to give each student 100% when working with them and their horse. However, this is an area of frustration I meet on a weekly basis. no matter how much I give during a training session I cannot do the best for the horse or the student because week after week, month after month and sometimes even year after year very little if anything is done with the horse between training sessions. I explain how the learning process develops and what has to be done. I like to ask that horses in training are worked with 5 days a week, but, I know some people have very little time so I ask that a minimum of 3 times a week is set aside for the horses well being. Most of the time the intent is good but somehow they just do not manage to fit it into their day. I do realize that life happens to us all, and can understand the occasional difficulty in practice, but if it’s constant and continual we have a problem.
In these situations horses do not develop, improve or advance. The rider does not develop, improve or advance. It leads to frustration for all parties involved. Sometimes I have a student who totally understands he/she cannot expect improvement without the work and will not ask too much of the horse or expect to be moving forward at that point. I can accept that. The lesson is then a review and a reinforcement of the previous information. However, when a student takes it out on me or the horse is when I have a problem. If a student abuses a horse I will step in and stop it and if necessary end the session. If I lose that person I feel sorry I can’t help the horse, but I won’t let them hurt the horse. If they abuse me I also stop it.
Students, this is team work between student, horse and trainer. If one of us falls short results will be less than optimal. You payed for the horse, the care, the tack and the training, now it takes commitment to the process to become one with your horse. My suggestion is to treat your practice riding as though it were any other appointment you make. Put it on your schedule, block out that time for you and your horse. I assure you the results will amaze and motivate you. Once you get on a regular schedule it will be habitual. Give it a try – the sky will be the limit!