Training for improvement is the goal of most riders. But that leaves wide open spaces for interpretation and failure. You might ask “How can you have failure if you are training for improvement?”. And I would answer, it’s very common to see failure as people are trying to train their horse for improvement. Below is my list of reasons I think people fail, when the goal is improvement.
- Most people don’t have a clear picture in their head about what that improvement will look like. They ride every day with the intention that they are training the horse to do something and on some level the horse does get better just from being rode. But true improvement at the level of mastery they need, is so far out of their reach, because they don’t really know what a plus score would look like, they have never studied the horses that win at the top-level of their event. They probably don’t even know what the rules are for the class they want to compete in. It’s only a guess at best and the guess is far from the truth.
- Some people depend on the internet and magazines for ideas about exercises they will do to meet their goals. This can sometimes be helpful, but mostly it isn’t going to give you enough step by step information and problem solving tools to get the job done. Remember these people are busy trainers who are trying to make a living training horses and they aren’t going to give you all the information you need. They depend on you coming to clinics or putting horses into training.
- Then there are the riders who have had success training at a lower level. Lets say 4-H or FFA. They think they are rocking it and they are at that lower level, but there are many things that would have to be changed about how there horses go around to win at a more advanced level. These people need to get a new feel and a new feel only comes from eyes on the ground telling you the difference between correct and incorrect. And yes, I did just say lower level horses could go around better.
- The real truth is that most people don’t have enough information to get the kind of improvement they want in their horse. And even worse some are too proud to ask for help because on some level they think they will look stupid or like they don’t know how to ride if they ask for help. Or they just aren’t seeing that they are riding and training at a level that is less than their goal. Most people need a trainer or instructor to give them the sequential step by step process to train a horse.
- And then there are the people who take the training process to a new level of torture for the horse. They don’t have the feel to stop when it’s close enough to being correct and give the horse a reward. They usually pick a fight and call it “the horse being bad”. Or they over work the horse because they missed it when the horse actually did the exercise correct. All of those things lead to failure and burn out for both the horse and the rider.
- If I had money for every time I told someone “your horse is lame, you should get it checked” and then got ignored I’d be rich. When a horse who is usually good-natured and most horses are, gets angry or fearful it is usually them trying to tell you that something is wrong. Vets might not be cheap but they can be you and your horses best friend when you all of a sudden have a training problem. Stop being cheap it’s the cost of being a winner, keep that horse sound and comfortable.
- What is the riders definition of improvement? This can be the cause of failure. That definition can set the bar to low for the horse or the rider to make any improvements. Setting a goal to low will also make you feel like a failure when it comes time to show and you realize you under trained.
- Another obstacle to improvement is unwillingness to step back down to a previous exercise. Sometimes when a horse becomes confused about what we are asking we need to go back to a previous exercise to show them what me want. Instead, what I hear people say to their horse is “you know how to do this” and then the fight begins. You can gain ground by being willing go back to a previous exercise the horse understands and then trying to flow that into the new exercise.
- Thinking that a horse is going to learn something as fast as you learn it is another problem I see. Horses don’t learn as fast as we do and furthermore they must have the time to build muscle memory and muscle strength. Having a realistic time line is a must when looking for improvement.
- No breaks and no variations during a training lesson. Most people get stuck because they don’t have enough ways to do the same thing and they also don’t take enough (walk on a long rein) breaks. When you work a muscle you have to rest it, even if it’s just for a lap around the arena. Horses get bored just like we do so having a variety of exercises will allow them to be interested in coming into the arena.
And lastly all help is not created equally. Just because your friend has been riding horses all their life or their kids had some luck showing horses does not make them a reliable source to go to for help. Find a qualified trainer or instructor to help you through the tough spots and you will be surprised how fast you will get improvement.