Strategically Using Your Time when Training or Retraining Your Horse

Strategically Using Your Time when Training or Retraining Your Horse

Strategically Using Your Time when Training or Retraining Your Horse

Why is it that, as equestrians, we often want to immediately have what we see others with?  And I’m not just talking about saddles, boots, and gloves… But the actual ‘horse’, exercises, movements, training, and level of performance.  We ‘know’ that time is required, but gosh, time can mean a lot of things to a lot of different riders!

When you are working alone riding and training your horse, strategically using your time is vitally important if you are to make progress. 

Today, I want to suggest a few key areas you can begin to think about in order to do this… So to keep both you and your horse moving forward in your training, and your development while keeping everyone happy in interested.

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Creating a Defined Outcome

I’m going to start this by being really honest; better is not a goal.  Wanting to be ‘better’ will not help or progress your riding or your training.  Better is a feeling.  We feel good when we feel better.  However, we might not always be doing as well as we feel at that moment…

Stop using ‘better’ as an outcome in your riding and your training. Start using outcomes you can measure… Or, even better, anyone watching can measure! 

Rather than ‘better canter transitions, why not use ‘clean and happen a split second after asking’ canter transitions?  Or rather than ‘better trails’, use ‘can ride 3km on our own, unaided, unassisted, and consistently relaxed’ trails?

It’s worth remembering that as you and your horse develop, the same topic can still be used as an outcome, its just the details of whats being measured changes…

So ‘clean transitions become ‘maintaining the contact’ transitions.  And ‘3km relaxed and alone trail rides’ become ’10km challenging while remaining relaxed and trusting the partnership trail’ rides. I give more examples in the actual episode, so make sure you give it a listen…

Okay, so once we are agreed that ‘better’ is not a goal or an outcome, let’s carry on ;)

Can Your Horse Do this?

Now, for most riders the answer is “Eh, Yes!, I mean, I’m pretty sure, right?”. I feel that this particular ‘time factor’ must be divided into two separate categories.  The first is for riders who are trying to force an issue on a horse who has no intention of EVER being the horse they want them to ‘become’.  Everyone has talents, and every horse has talents.  It takes a really responsible and intuitive rider to admit that their goals might not be their ‘heart horse’s talents…

 Will your horse have the ability to do this ‘happily’ in the future? (Happliy is a key word!).

And the second is for riders who feel confident that their horse is definitely the horse for the job at hand.  The question is about where they are now, and what they need to be before they can do this ‘thing’.  Many of us simply just think our horses can ‘do’ things.  After all, we see them doing the things all of the time in the field with their friends, right?!

Has your horse the ability to do this ‘thing’ the correct way, at some point in the future – and what does he need to learn or develop in order to get there?

What Does He Know Already?

Why is it that when we’re training horses, it is often easier to see the downsides to what our horse already knows?  The challenges and issues with the training or retraining that has to happen…  Why not begin seeing some of these past lessons (I do say some) as opportunities?

What is it your horse already knows (good or bad) that you can use to help him understand a concept you’re trying to impress on him now?

We all ‘know’ things that help us understand other things better.  Your horse is no different.  When you begin actively looking for ways that you can better explain things to him using what he already knows, you can ‘leap frog’ some of the ‘time’ involved with learning new things… That’s worth considering, right?!

What Previous Training is Working Against You Now?

Similarly, there are things that your horse ‘thinks’ are good and correct, that is probably holding you both back!  We once had a horse here, an OTTB, who had this exact issue.  And it was a groundwork, not a riding issue.  Yet, it affected everything…

Someone had trained this horse to rear on command when the ‘rider’ was on the ground in front of her… The issue was that we didn’t know the command! 

This was a tall (16.3hh) horse who would rear up, and flick out her front feet while doing it. Afterward, she would elegantly stop waving (put all 4 feet on the ground) and give the terrified/surprised/confused/perplexed handler a look of “I made my move, now you make yours…”!

Trying to explain to her that we didn’t want that ‘move’ was incredibly difficult when we didn’t even know what initiated it in the first place! 

So we focused on what we did know; our training methods.  We overly celebrated all ‘wanted moves’ and ignored the unwanted ones.  Over time, she slowly forgot about her casting for Zorro movie training, and rather began to understand what was required in this part of her career…

The key to all of this was time. And knowing that she was working on an outdated expectation – which was our responsibility to help her understand. 

Being Strategic with Time

This leads me to my last point… Are you being realistic with your timeframe when it comes to training or retraining your horse?  Does the plan that you have laid out on paper, or digitally, accurately reflect where both of you are right now?

And your resources? Does your plan match the resources you have available?  Your time, your other commitments, your finances, your focus, attention, etc…

The key to using your time strategically, regardless of how little or how much you have, is to know what needs to be done.

As you begin working with and training or retraining your horse, you will begin to gain more clarity around this.  You will see where your horse has potential ‘gaps’ in their training.  And. you will know what you can include in each session to help ‘fill’ those gaps.

Happy Riding

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