by Marilyn Pineda
Sometimes (most times), all we really need to do to advance in horsemanship skills is learn to slow down. Remember, the first reason most of us have horses is for enjoyment. Too often we miss out on the satisfaction of simply savoring our life experience with them. This month, I would like to share a few things you can do for yourself that could measurably increase the ability to enjoy your horse.
The first thing that comes to mind is the attention I’ve seen people give to their cell phone—while they are with their horse! Most of us have horses to enjoy a bit of time away from daily problems and responsibilities so why not mute your phone for a while? It sounds simple, but texting or conversing during ground training exercises, or even during trail rides, interrupts being in the moment, necessary focus and decreases the growth you could be experiencing in partnership with your horse. In addition, horses know when you are paying attention. When focus is elsewhere the horse is pretty much left on his own in those moments. So, who is the leader in that situation?
Horse Training Tip: Be fair to your horse when it comes to expectations. It is his responsibility to try to do what you ask; it is your responsibility to only ask what he capable of doing. You need to be tuned in to sense and respond to what he is able to offer.
An equine lifestyle not only offers the opportunity to enjoy and live in the moment, it helps us get into better physical shape—or helps keep us in shape. I’ve noticed that people feel better about their abilities and connect much better with their horse on days when they feel good, verses days when they feel “off.” General health naturally affects how we feel from day to day. I will readily admit that one of the things I appreciate about ground work is that it offers me a natural opportunity for some great exercise. And guess what? There is no law that says we have to stay in the saddle once mounted for a trail ride. Dismounting and walking for 15 or 20 minutes with your horse is wonderful exercise, as well as an opportunity to practice leadership status—is your horse staying where he should be on a loose line, or stepping out ahead of you? Remember my article on “Alpha Applications?” This leading exercise is a fantastic ground training tool for developing the leadership balance we need to have with our horse. Try it the next time you are headed back to the barn or trailer after a ride. I love helping folks improve their communication skills with their horse and gain better confidence individually and with each other.
Last but not least: Take note of the good things that happen when you are with your horse and realize they are all great steps in horse training. Mark any accomplishment from one day as a potential start up reference for the next time you are together. Don’t set yourself up for discouragement by expecting or wishing for too much too soon. Use potential frustrations to set goals, and enjoy your horse. It is a critical part along the journey of Riding Well Grounded.
Published December 2014 Issue