We all want our horses to enjoy their daily work. That each day they are enthusiastic and energetic in their attitude towards their training. We want to create a willing mindset in our horses, but how do we create this?
It of course starts with the right mind set of the rider, which begins with the right focus.
Traditionally riding or training horses for sport begins with a focus on studying or applying a technical aspect of riding, executing a sequence of steps and repeating them to form a certain movement.
I recently had a student come to me with a horse that he was having trouble doing sequence changes with.
The student said: “He starts with the first change okay and then he just ignores my leg. So then I made him really sharp on the leg so I hardly had to touch him for the change. But then he started running off with his head in the air after the second change. So I put the draw rein on him to hold him and now sometimes he’s just stopping and rearing.”
Me: “What is he thinking?”
Student: “He’s just running through the aids.”
Me: “No, I said what does HE think about it?”
Student: “What do mean? You mean him? The Horse? What is he thinking??”
Student: “Well, I don’t know??? I just want him to do it!”
If you ask yourself ‘what is he thinking‘ before you start the changes, you will know what the reaction will be before you enter the movement and you won’t have to force him to make the mistake.
When you know what he is thinking about it, it is only then you will know what you need to train first. You can then change the approach, go back and gain the missing ingredients to be able to be successful in the changes.
‘Who is my horse and what it he thinking’ is what I always try to remind myself of.
Changing the mindset of the rider to think not what is the horse doing but why is he doing it, alters the whole vibe of the training session. It opens the rider’s mind and shows what information the horse really needs at that time to progress easily towards the goal.
Setting the right feeling through the training each day determines how your horse experiences his education. Does he feel it’s an education? Is it something that motivates him? Where he seeks the little rewards and the feeling of accomplishment and that it’s easy?
Or does he feel that it’s just hard work and that the time he spends with you is full of confusion, frustration and fear.
The horse becomes a direct reflection of the rider
Aside from a method of training or steps on how to archive the moments with your horse that seem effortless with a clear confident understanding of the exercise, it is the mindset of the rider to think what is my horse thinking and not what is he doing. And also why is he doing is?
The way the horse experiences his daily training determines the effort and motivation he will willingly put forward the next day, creating a patterned momentum of self-improvement in the horse that generates excitement and energy about his work.