If you handle a horse in any capacity congratulations you’re now a horse trainer 🏅
Horses are learning all of the time, every time you interact with a horse you are training something whether you’re aware of it or not. Training is not confined to the arena. When you catch your horse, how he leads, how he behaves at the gate and how you move around each other, none of this is set in stone. Maybe your horse gets a fright coming through the gate one day, then the next day he rushes a little, a bit more the day after that until you have an issue with gates because you didn’t address it when it started and now it has become a conditioned response to coming through the gate.
People often talk about horses in a very rigid way, as if once they’re trained a certain way that is just how they will stay forever. Maybe you can send them to your trainer to restore the factory settings 😅. Unfortunately horses don’t work this way and any training needs to be consistent from the people who are interacting with the horse daily. I have seen things slide so quickly even with very quiet, well trained horses when they are handled in an inconsistent way.
Take a minute every day to just ask your horse to stand and wait quietly while you do things, being consistent pays off in the long run. We all see people flying their horses like a kite just to get the horse from a to b on daily turnout, the answer always seems to be bits and pressure halters and never actually addressing the fact the horse doesn’t understand how to lead properly. Horses with good foundations don’t drag you around even when they’re feeling flighty. This sort of behaviour isn’t just stressful for you, it’s stressful for the horse too.
The most important thing for me (and I’m sure the horses) is how you make them feel when they’re around you. Do you make them feel safe and calm? Do they understand what you are asking and feel relaxed about the work? Or do they feel worried and afraid to make a mistake? Perhaps you’re inadvertently confusing them because you are feeling stressed and are being unclear. Anyone can bully a horse into compliance with “impressive results”, but how do you think a horse really feels about someone who yanked on their face or ran them in circles until they gave up. Your horse following you around isn’t the connection you think it is when his only other option is being chased around, but that’s a whole other topic for a different post 🥲.
Learning is messy and everybody learns differently. Anybody can learn to train with good timing and feel but so many people are put off because it’s difficult at first or maybe the trainer doesn’t match their style of learning. So many of my clients are constantly saying sorry every time they make a mistake, I do it in my lessons too and I’m trying to stop 🤦🏼♀️. Training horses is a huge skill, you’ve got to figure out what your limbs are doing independently of each other, figure out where you are positioned, watch the horse, watch where you’re going, ask enough but not too much it’s hard! Give yourself a break.
I think so much of the industry makes people feel inferior, as if there’s some mystical “thing” you either have or you don’t or that you need to know all of the technical jargon. I watch a lot of lessons with a lot of trainers and the amount of times I’ve seen the trainer explain something in a way that made no sense, I can see the rider doesn’t understand, but they’re too scared to speak up and ask because they feel like they “should” know what they meant. Some people very confidently talk about a lot of nothing, “he needs to work more from behind”, okay cool, how? What exactly do you mean by that? Can you break it down for me? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you are paying to be taught. Let’s just say ribbons won does not equal good horsemanship or good training.
So many of us feel that we’re not “good enough” and need someone else to do all the training not realising we are capable of training that horse every day by ourselves. Your lessons are a place to learn the skills to take away and implement. You don’t need to do anything ambitious, start small, ask your trainer for exercises you feel comfortable doing alone and make sure you really understand them. All of us can be more mindful around our horses and keep on top of those small things. Don’t walk out of the arena and forget every boundary you just set with your horse, you must be consistent.
If you want a calm, willing horse you must be a calm and consistent person to be around. This starts on the ground in their daily life.🐴