Maturity Brings Excellence in Horse Training- Move Slowly, Take Your Time, and Take Breaks

Training is directing your horse toward something he doesn’t know. – Anna Blake


When I was in my late teens, I worked with an older horse trainer I respected a great deal. He didn’t talk a lot, but one of the things he told me was this: “Train a horse like you’re in your 80s and can barely walk. Move slowly, take your time, and take lots of breaks.”

He said it to me more than once, because I was a know-it-all teenager. And I heard him, but I didn’t really listen. Back then, my imagination wasn’t well-developed enough to really grasp what he meant. Now, after all these years, I’m finally (finally) starting to understand.

Photo by Catherine Madera

Today when I rode my gelding Gunner, he spooked at a row of cavalletti poles and refused to cross them. He’d already walked over those poles a half-dozen times on this particular ride and he’s crossed them thousands of times since I’ve owned him. But I’ve learned this is just something he does. He probably has some vision issues and the sun was setting, changing the light in the arena; or he could be having some physical issues. Back pain? Muscle pain? Foot pain?

I’d been riding for a while and was ponying another horse off him; he was getting tired. I stopped, took a deep breath, and relaxed my muscles, mirroring with my own body what I wanted him to do with his: Let go, Gunner, it’s okay. Within a few seconds he dropped his head and walked over the poles.

In another time, when I was younger and less experienced, I would have kicked him or perhaps even applied a bit of spur, and things undoubtedly would’ve escalated.

I’m better at training horses now than I’ve ever been. I used to rely more on athleticism to get the job done, but I’m not the athlete I once was. I think more often about that old trainer of mine, and his words of wisdom. I know I listen better to the advice of other trainers now, especially those who have different goals or come from different disciplines than I do.

I love solving training issues and helping my horse calmly figure something out. I’m more patient and know how to wait for the horse. Giving the horse more time and giving up on my own “wants” is part of maturing as a horse trainer.

Anna Blake, our current Trainer’s Corner columnist writes eloquently about these kinds of training issues. I urge you to read her articles. Enjoy our Training and Facilities issue! [email protected]


Published in the August 2020 Issue:

August 2020

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