I’m sure that phrase brings to mind over-facing horses with huge fences or doing one too many classes at your first show, but I’m actually talking about much more basic things. We are taught that the real training happens once you’re on board and even then many people don’t feel like they’re doing proper work without trotting and cantering. The seeds of problems are often planted long before we’re on their backs.
Emotional regulation is a huge part of the training I do with horses.
What do I mean by emotional regulation? At the most basic level I would ask can your horse stand still in a relaxed manner in the arena at home with you on the ground? You’d be surprised how many people find out the answer is no. There’s a huge hole in your foundation right there. This is something many horses struggle with for various reasons, but this is a place to start.
I’ve been out to several horses with rearing problems, napping problems, spooking problems, losing the plot at shows problems and when I get there I find that the horse struggles to even stand still in the arena at home where they should be at their most comfortable. Sometimes we even have to take it back to the stable or their paddock to start with where they feel more comfortable. 🏡
The problem people think they have is often not actually the problem they do have, or rather their problem is a symptom of another issue so to speak. If you start to rebuild the foundations from the ground up, start to teach the horse how to regulate their emotions and train in a gradual way that sets them up to succeed, you tend to find common issue like napping resolve themselves without necessarily needing to be addressed directly at all.
There are many environmental factors that can cause horses to feel more anxious that are so common perhaps we don’t even think about them. Training cannot happen once the horse is already over threshold, I will talk about this in another post because as always this is getting too long. 🤦🏼♀️
Learning to deal with the horse in front of you and not the horse you had a week ago, or the horse you had yesterday, or the horse somebody else expects you to produce, is the key to good training. What is right for this horse today? Maybe its just quietly walking on a loose rein, maybe its not getting on at all. We are so used to the way things “should” be done people can be quite shocked when a training session involves “just” standing still and walking. But if you take the time to put the foundations in and stop worrying about what other people think, the rest of it comes more easily.
And for those of you asking why does it matter if he can’t stand still as long as I can get on and ride forward? I guarantee that horse is not relaxed in his work even if he is tolerating it. A tense horse cannot work in healthy posture and you will run into problems down the line. By the time a lot of people get to me things have gone very wrong, wouldn’t it be better to fix the foundations before the whole thing falls down? 🤷🏻♀️