We all have talents. Things that seem to come naturally to us and that we excel at. Your horse is the same. And, in my experience, when we approach training our horses with the idea that we are helping them develop their talents, everyone is happier.
Unfortunately, it is common practice for many people to focus on weaknesses. Both in the human and in the horse! And so many riders create training programs and riding plans based on what their horse is not so talented at doing.
Doing something over and over again that you struggle with is not a recipe for happiness or success!
Identifying Your Horses Talents
All horses have specific things that they enjoy doing and are good at doing. The key to creating lasting success is to identify these areas and use them to strengthen the weaker areas. Next time you’re working with your horse, notice what he truly enjoys doing, or what he does with ease and flow.
Once you have identified your horse’s talents, you can then begin to use them to either introduce or ‘soften’ the things that he finds more difficult when it comes to training and working.
Create a Plan to Focus on the Positive
From here, I believe that it is your responsibility to get creative when creating a plan for your horse’s training or work. Ask yourself how you can use what your horse truly enjoys in order to help develop those weaker areas.
So, for example, if your horse really enjoys working over grids or ground poles, how can you use these tools to help encourage the areas he’s not so good at? Or if he is fantastic at establishing and maintaining a rhythm in the canter, how can you use this to help him do the same in other gaits?
By starting from the area of work or training that he enjoys, you set the tone for a better overall conversation throughout the ride.
And because you regularly return to the good stuff, especially when things feel heavy, challenging, or tough, your horse will become more willing to continue with the work.
Sprinkle Like Confetti
It can be so tempting to only do the complex or challenging thing in each ride. To ‘push on through’ and improve it or create a breakthrough. And sometimes this is what may be needed in order for things to progress for you and your horse.
Yet, doing the ‘hard stuff’ all of the time will soon lead to a sour horse and a frustrated rider… A stalemate of sorts!
I personally believe in the ‘sprinkle like confetti’ approach… This simply means that if you were handed a map of each ride, after the ride, you would see the hard stuff inserted in small little amounts throughout the overall ride. The rest of the ride would be filled with ‘easy’ or ‘enjoyable’ stuff.
By bookending the more difficult work with exercises based on your horse’s talents, the whole ride becomes more enjoyable.
We Learn When We’re Having Fun
Finally, it is important to consider how you feel when doing the things you enjoy and are good at. There is relaxation, rhythm, ease, and flow that go with these things. And those good feelings are multiplied when someone takes notice of what you are doing and focuses positive attention on them.
This can often make us want to do more, even if challenges crop up every now and then. The ‘good stuff’ helps us commit to working through the more difficult things.
Riders and horses learn more and retain more when they are enjoying the work. As riders, and trainers for our horses, it is important to remember this. And commit to investing time, creativity, and enthusiasm into creating a riding plan that will inspire and delight your horse.
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