Updated: Aug 5, 2020
This blog series is about the balance of enjoyment, improvement and Mindfulness that is needed for the average equestrian to be able to reach their full potential. Novice or a professional, here are some of the essential things that you can learn in any equestrian career.
Today's topic is time, and not just the time it takes you to drive to the paddock in the morning but the time you put into your horse, either on the ground, in the saddle or just sitting and breathing in the air around them.
If I know my horses' capabilities, I can plan my ride out but never will every ride of my week go accurately to plan, and that my fellow equestrians are how horses work. It is how you handle these sometimes disappointing rides that shape your progress. Every ride is worth riding and not one hour in the saddle is wasted, as long as you keep a calm presence and work as a team, even when our horse doesn't seem like a team player.
As a horse trainer, one of the most frequently asked questions I have is "how much time do you spend training a horse" that question in the simplest of answers is 15-60 minutes, Excluding the time that we put in on the ground, in the paddock and so on. My answer will shock some people as time is a significant factor and is viewed differently in everyone's eye's, yet for me, it comes down to the simple old saying "quality over quantity". A green horse may need a 40-minute session one day, and then only need a 10-minute session the next day. This example can be transferred over to a more educated horse, like my mare Tolly, she is fitter than the OTTTB coming off a spell. She has more buttons, yes, but that does not mean I need to work Tolly for a specific amount of time, keeping her fitness up or building the strength of a young, green or out of work horse is all the same. It is about how you work their developed muscles and how you ask the undeveloped muscles to work during there training session.
For example, I will give you two different models of an exercise I will layout for both an educated and fit horse as well as an unfit or green horse, along with some small variables.
During a ride on any horse, we set goals, but not every ride do we get the chance to accomplish them. Not every ride can be perfect, and not every portion of our lives can be choreographed. As Equestrians, we understand the ups and downs associated with horses or life. Sometimes it is hard not to feel deflated by a problem and hunt for the right answer. In the line of training and educating a horse, it isn't about fixating on the bad; It is about rewarding the good.
For example, If I was riding Tolly and tacked her up, wanting to work on her flying-changes. If Tolly can't balance her downwards transitions appropriately, I would then be crazy to expect her to be up-hill enough to perform a correct flying change. As much as riding is about pursuing a goal, it is even more about feel. If you cant, feel the horse under you telling you they're ready or not, then the journey to the goal might become more difficult.
For a greener or more unfit horse, my goals would be much lower, even possibly as small as mounting without moving or the horse yielding at a walk. Every horse is different and at variable levels of education so I need to go into every ride with feel and patience, sometimes even giving myself a pep talk to push through something I know may be difficult.
Why planning out a ride you need to ensure you give yourself time to correct any habit necessary, but at the same time being happy to finish in 10-20 minutes. If your horse has given you everything you asked in places they usually find hard or they have just learnt, don't be afraid to end on a good note. When Allowing time to correct a habit, it is essential to be able to shift the focus of your ride to something more achievable. When exercises become too easy, use my favorite coaching line "Good, but, More". Without trying to sound contradictory, when you find that your regular exercises are too easy or achievable without debate, it is important not to settle. Approach everything in the saddle and on the ground in a way that allows both team members to grow, and then at the same time take a step back when needed. This approach is one of the greatest things you can learn as an equestrian. When to say enough, why also knowing when to push.
The time in the saddle is sometimes the only time we track as equestrians. However, what about all the untimed training we give the horse in our day to day life. For example, feeding, rugging, leading, caring, it all counts in the grand scheme of things. Something as simple as rugging a horse in the paddock has been training at one point in their lives and possibly still is. We mustn't take our time with our beloved horses for granted as everything we do with them is either training or untraining.
Spend your time wisely