They say that success in real estate depends on three things: location, location, and location. In riding, I think it boils down to: preparation, preparation, preparation. This is especially true when you have a nervous, hot, or spooky horse, as we discussed last week.
When I say preparation, I am not only referring to the longer term (preparation over weeks and months), which is absolutely paramount, but I am also talking about preparation on a shorter term – thinking steps and seconds ahead of your horse.
When you’re working with your horse at a show or in a ring with other horses, as an example, you don’t want to just be aware of what you and your horse are doing. You also need to be clocking what the other horses in the ring are doing, where the unpredictable horse who might explode at any moment and set of your horse is, where the ring drag is, etc.
When I’m in the warmup for a jumper class, for example, I know before I turn towards a warmup jump exactly which route I’m going to take, whether I’m going to turn left or right after the jump, where my transition back to trot or walk will be, etc. The last thing I want to do is take my horse into a situation that doesn’t end well, like cantering too close to a horse with a red ribbon on his tail, because that’s going to be on me. Even if it’s another horse that sets my horse off, the responsibility falls on me.
When you’re planning these steps ahead, remember that it’s always easier for horses to handle following something spooky that is retreating away from them, than it is for them to approach it head on, whether the spooky thing is stationary or coming towards them. For instance, if they’re nervous about a tractor or mower that is going around the outside of the ring, try tucking in behind it and following it in the same direction it’s going, only gradually closing the distance between you and the spooky thing as your horse gains confidence.
If you’d like to see these principles in play with real horses and riders, as I coach them through these issues, you can check out all of my Equestrian Masterclass courses (Solving Common Horse Behavior Issues; Training the Young Horse; Training the Spooky/Anxious Horse; and Understanding Horse Behavior). Remember to keep your expectations in check with nervous horses, looking for just 1% improvement every day, and you’ll be well-rewarded for your patience.
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