It can be frustrating when you know exactly what you want to achieve when training or retraining your horse, but it seems to be taking ‘forever’! It seems that no matter how much you explain your horse, he’s not ‘getting it’.
Training or retraining your horse is something that takes time. And, sometimes, it is our own impatience or actions that actually keep things stuck where progress is concerned.
Today I want to cover the 5 most common causes that may cause you to become a little stuck when training or retaining your horse.
1. Lack of Consistency
When we first think about consistency in our riding, we often think about our actual riding schedule. How many days a week or month we are working with our horse. And, yes, this is important. However, what’s far more important in my opinion is what’s happening in each of those individual sessions.
You are always training or retraining your horse. On the ground, in the field, on the trail, and in the arena.
Practice is important. However, only practicing specific things when the mood takes you will not get you the results you want. How you are doing one this is how you must do everything. Simply ‘practicing’ won’t make perfect.
The key is to make sure you are consistent with your communication, your expectations, and your responses through all that you do.
2. Confusing Training and Re-Training
Training and retraining your horse are two very different things. And when we are working with our horses, it is really important to know the difference between the two. You can download a free printable article CLICK HERE
that goes into more detail on this.
Training is creating an expectation or an outcome to a certain question. Retraining is changing the expectation or outcome when the same question is applied.
When your horse already knows to do a certain thing a certain way that you want to change or modify, this is retraining. And, just like us, when a certain expectation or habit has been in place for a while, it can sometimes be a challenge to change!
Many riders fail to truly understand ‘retraining’. They don’t invest enough time in truly changing the associations or responses their horse has. This will often become really clear when pressure is applied to the situation and the horse reverts back to the ‘old way’ of behaving or responding.
Equally as common is the rider who forgets that their horse does not understand the question. Rather than becoming frustrated or annoyed, reframe this with ‘how can I better explain this to my horse.
3. Differences Between ‘Thinking’ and ‘Doing’
Have you ever watched a video of yourself doing something? Riding, dancing, running…? The thing that strikes most people when they do this is the vast difference between how they ‘think’ they are doing the thing, and how they are actually doing the thing!
I regularly work with riders who really do need video evidence that I am not imagining seeing their lower leg constantly swing or their inside hand drop. That is the difference between ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’.
If you have hit a bit of a plateau when training or retraining your horse, check yourself and what you are doing.
I strongly suggest videoing yourself. I think that in this day and age, it’s as simple as using your phone propped on something and riding past it a few times. It can be truly eye-opening. Review your video and really look for any possible ‘mixed signals’ in the communication.
Lack of coordination, your aids not being as independent as you thought, and just doing the wrong thing can all cause your training to stall and plateau.
4. Lack of Knowledge
The final mistake you could be making when training or retraining your horse is simply not knowing enough. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of seeing someone else do something and then assuming you can do the same. I see this happen a lot with regards to riders watching videos or ‘tutorials’ online. If someone can do something well enough to create and post a video about it, there’s a pretty good chance that they have been practicing that thing for quite a while!
Many riders are trying different methods or techniques with their horses without actually really knowing ‘why’ and ‘how’ it produces the result it does.
When training or retraining your horse, it is vital to understand as much as you can about the topic you’re working on. The pre-requisites, preparation, aids, what it will feel or look like (especially at first), and how to develop it further.
Knowing the aids to the canter is not enough when training or retraining your horse to perform a more timely, clean, and correct transition into the canter!
If you are trying to train or retrain your horse, begin scheduling an hour or two each week to actually LEARN more. Going deeper into each topic and understanding how it fits in. This will lead to more lasting success for you and your horse.
5. Not Enough Time…
You would never expect to go for a 3km run today and then be fit enough to run a full marathon tomorrow, would you?! And yet, as riders, we can often expect this of our horses! This actually really ties all of the things we have already spoken about today together.
Time is essential to build lasting results when training or retraining your horse. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If you are not seeing results, could it be that you have not yet allowed enough time? Development, especially when correct, takes time. This can seem boring and long-winded. And yet, this is often the difference between a horse that develops and a horse that stagnates in its training.
The good news is that if you can couple time with consistency and correct actions, you will soon begin to see changes in both your skills as a rider. And your horse’s way of going.
Download a printable version of this article when you CLICK HERE
- Putting All the Pieces Together When Training Your Horse
- Retraining Your Horse Versus Training Your Horse
- The Training Scale for You and Your Horse