I remember the excitement I felt when I began working with my pony ‘alone’ at home in the fields when I was younger. The feeling that anything was possible if I was only willing to put in the consistent effort and work.
And the feeling that there was just so much to do and so little time to do it!
My mind was racing with thoughts of ground pole exercises, schooling movements, jumping grids, fitness training, etc., etc., etc. All of the ‘exciting’ stuff I had seen other riders get up to in the pony magazines I got as a treat a couple of times a year.
And after speaking with thousands of adult riders over the years, I think they also experience those same feelings. Except as an adult, when training your horse alone, those feelings of initial excitement can often turn into overwhelm pretty quickly!
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast, I want to chat about the very first concept I believe all horses and riders should work on in their training. And I want to help you begin to think of this as the absolute foundation of everything else you do with your horse. Especially if you are training your horse alone.
The concept? Forwardness…
There are so many reasons why this is overlooked if you are a rider training your horse. Maybe the belief that it’s ‘boring’ or unimportant. Or not correctly understanding what it is. Sometimes riders don’t even know it is a ‘thing’ that needs work.
Forwardness is a very real ‘thing’. And it requires both you and your horse to understand and work this way. Mentally and physically.
Without forwardness, none of the other principles or concepts (steps) of the training scale can exist. And I realize this sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but it is not. Frowardness is absolutely essential to everything you do with your horse.
What is Forwardness?
One of the most useful ways of describing forwardness is to imagine the feeling when you have a sense of purpose. There is a focus and quiet determination to it. It’s not rushed, it’s certainly not wandering. But rather it is moving towards something or some outcome with focus, clarity, and energy.
This ‘sense of purpose’ can be applied to how you and your horse both think and take action. Mental and physical forwardness.
Having this combined ‘sense of purpose’ means that you are working together towards a single goal or outcome. And this is absolutely key when training and working your horse.
Some horses naturally tend to have this (a little like some people), while for others, it must be learned. And this is where, I believe, your training should begin with your horse.
Training Your Horse to Work Forward
I often feel that the physical aspects of this trait are a little easier to instill and build in both horses and riders. There are many ways you can encourage your horse to move forward. From your body language to your voice. To use your position and other driving aids.
However, if you have to keep ‘reminding’ your horse (via your aids) to ‘work forward’, he is not actually working forward!
True physical forwardness is when your horse begins to accept responsiblity for his own level of purpose. When your horse begins to ‘take you there’. And just like anything in horse riding, you can do this by clear and timely correction when working together.
Making Timely Corrections
As you feel your horse beginning to ‘slow down’ or ‘meander’, you can encourage him to refocus and work forwards again. It will take some consistency on your part, but the results are well worth it. Similarly, if you feel your horse begin to rush or run, you can remind him to channel the energy into focused and rhythmic work.
What’s key to remember and understand is that your horse will probably need you to correct, encourage, or remind him often initially – but will slowly begin to take over the responsibility for himself soon.
Isn’t it strange how some things, when you learn they exist, begin to shape how you see everything in your day-to-day life? Thinking forward was one of those things for me. Once I learned it was a ‘thing’, I began to look for it everywhere. And where it existed – compared to where it did not – was blatantly obvious.
Thinking forward is essential for both horses and their riders. The lack of it in training is what causes everything to become ‘stuck’. Often physically stuck!
So a horse who plants himself in one spot and is unwilling to move forward. Or a horse that needs constant ‘chasing’ to get to move anywhere at all! And with regards to the riders; a lack of forward-thinking allows them to become distracted by everything during each ride. They struggle with consistency and actually doing what they set out to do.
Rider’s Mental Forwardness
Luckily, thinking forward is a little like concentration – it can be improved and strengthened over time.
And this must begin with the rider being committed to developing this in themselves first.
I will list more resources below about how you can begin to think this way…
And, if you are looking for some ‘hand-holding’ while you are learning how to train your horse, make sure you get on the VIP list for my brand new program where I will be helping a small number of riders train their horses at home, alone, without a trainer or coach… Get on the list HERE
Seeking Founding Riders…
If you are considering training your horse at home or alone (boarding at a barn, but don’t have a regular coach or trainer), make sure you check out the details of my upcoming brand-new program.
I’m looking for a limited number of riders to work in-depth with me and my team as we go through this program for the first time. Get on the waitlist to be the first to find out all of the information… We start in early September. Join the Waitlist HERE (no obligation to join the program, just be the first to know all of the details :) )
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