Training your horse alone can feel like a big responsibility. And, let’s be honest, for the most part, it is! And if you’re anything like what I was like when I first began playing with this (with my saint of a pony), there’s a good chance there are a couple of things ‘missing’ from your ‘program’.
You see, training a horse is a little like following a recipe. Change one or two things around and you will get a completely different result!
Today, I want to help you identify what might be missing in your training ‘program’ so that you know where to begin working. I’ve ‘crowd-sourced this a little by referring to some of the most common challenges I get asked about by riders from all over the world… Okay, let’s go!
“My Horse Won’t Go Forward”
Okay, forwardness is a very real thing. And I believe that without it, nothing else can actually exist. I know that sounds like a big statement – but it is true!
Before you can work on the more ‘interesting’ or ‘complicated’ things, you first need to establish and maintain forwardness. Both in how you and your horse think. And how you respond or take action.
Think of it this way; Have you ever tried to ‘steer’ a car that wasn’t running? Or remain straight on a bicycle that wasn’t moving? Both are pretty difficult to do! This is why concepts such as suppleness and straightness also become pretty impossible to achieve on a horse who is not thinking and working forward.
And one of the biggest misconceptions about forwardness is that the horse must be actually moving forward. Nope; this is not true. It’s just that the energy and the ‘sense of purpose’ to work forward must be present. Two very different things.
“My Horse is Too Tense (or Lazy)”
Once you have established ‘forwardness’, the next key piece is to begin managing that energy. And the first thing we must achieve here is true relaxation. Contrary to popular belief, relaxation when it comes to training horses and relaxation when it comes to being a human are very different things!
When we are training horses, relaxation is the concept of managing the correct levels of tension in both the riders and the horse’s bodies for the task at hand.
Too much tension (excess tension) will result in a feeling of riding a ticking time bomb! Ready to explode at the slightest provocation! Too little tension will result in your horse looking and feeling like a camel or a giraffe. All long and ‘stringy’ with little to no focus. In fact, a lack of tension when riding is the horse equivalent of slouching!
And if you have ever been on a horse with incorrect tension levels at any point in the ride, you will know that everything else is pretty much impossible to maintain for any significant length of time.
“My Horse Keeps Changing Speed”
This one is perhaps the most overlooked of all the basics when training horses. True and correct rhythm. And I think this is due to a lack of understanding from riders. Rhythm when it comes to being a training principle for horses is a BIG concept.
Yes, there is the whole repeating sequence that creates a rhythm. But what about the tempo? And what about improving or ‘defining’ that rhythm more?
The other issue I see a lot of when it comes to rhythm when training is riders believing that anything that is ‘repeating’ is the rhythm training complete. This could not be further from the truth. I’ve seen ‘running walks’ to 4-beat canters and everything in between!
Rhythm, when it comes to your horse, requires the initial ‘sequence’ you are working with to be correct. And then, from that place, you can begin to work on improving, defining, and establishing a more consistent rhythm.
The challenge is that once you have established a good quality rhythm, if either the relaxation or forwardness decreases or changes, it will impact the rhythm. And when a rhythm is changed – well it’s no longer a rhythm in the truest meaning of the concept, is it?!
“My Horse is Stiff”
This one always makes me first wonder about the rider who is complaining about the stiffness. You see, over the years I have seen a direct correlation between riders and horses; especially when it comes to suppleness.
The second big challenge many riders have with suppleness is that they simply don’t understand what it is when it comes to training horses. It is not just some stretches before you ride. And nor is it bends and circles.
True suppleness first requires all of the other principles to be in place and working. Forwardness, relaxation, and rhythm. Once this is happening, the energy can truly begin to flow. And it is how this energy flows that really best describes suppleness when it comes to your horse.
Think of yoga and how there is a flow of consistent energy as you perform each movement. It’s not ‘sticky’ or ‘tight’. It’s certainly not ‘fixed’ or ‘held’. It just flows…
When it comes to working on increasing suppleness for your horse, you must consider all of these things (and yourself). And again, because it’s worth repeating, if any of the other principles that come before it ‘disappear’ or ‘change’, it will impact your horse’s ability to maintain his suppleness.
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. Get All the Details HERE (no obligation to join the program, just be the first to know all of the details :) )
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