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10 tips for a positive mindset when training your horse

10 tips for a positive mindset when training your horse

Everybody knows somebody who always seems to have fun when training his horse, even if it’s not
going that well. A trainer like this sees every difficulty as a possibility and sees opportunities where
others only see problems. This person usually has a positive mindset and infects others with one’s optimism.

However, you are also likely to know somebody who is always complaining about one’s horse and
the training. Yes, I am talking about a trainer with a negative mindset.
Do you know someone like that? Alternatively, are you maybe someone with a negative mindset?

If you are a trainer with a negative mindset, you:

  • negative-mindset-horse-trainingthink of limitations (my horse is too old, too stiff, too small, too energetic, to lazy, to young, to scared…)
  • focus especially on what’s nót going well
  • see many problems and difficulties
  • often blame others (your horse, your instructor, the caregiver)
  • think of yourself as a useless horse trainer
  • speak badly about yourself (I cannot do this, I’m too clumsy, I’m too insecure)
  • do not take much initiative to resolve issues
  • often say “yes, but …” if people want to help you
  • often complain about all the things not going well during training

Of course, everyone can give in to a negative mood. However, if you think negatively  and complain every day and there is no progress in the training of your horse, you really have to change for yourself ánd for your horse.

Because horses are very sensitive to mood, emotion and energy.  If you always radiate a negative energy, it has a negative effect on your horse and his/her will and desire to work with you! You will end up in a vicious circle: you are negative, your horse does not feel well in your presence, it does not work, it makes you cranky and even more negative…

However, if you are a coach with a positive mindset, you:

  • positive-mindset-horse-trainingthink in possibilities instead of difficulties
  • focus on everything that goes well
  • see a lot of opportunities to learn
  • first look at where you’ve gone wrong and then decide how you can approach it next time.
  • improve yourself so that you become a conscious trainer
  • take great initiative
  • say things like “That’s interesting, I never thought of that myself.
    I’ll see what I can do with it. Thank you!” when others try to help you.

If you usually think this way, you are a positive minded coach, which is just what a horse needs to stay motivated and have fun during training! If so, you do not need to continue reading. But, do you have a negative mindset? Do you have periods of negativity (a bad period)? Then be sure to read the tips below!

First admit it to yourself, then you can change!

People with a negative attitude do not like to admit it: “No, I do not have a negative mindset.  My horse is just too…” Fortunately, you can unlearn a negative mindset and learn a positive mindset. If you want that, the first step is admitting that you are a person with a negative mindset.

You admit it? That’s brave! Now you’re ready to change it!

From this moment on, you will train your horse with a positive vibe if you properly apply and continue to apply the tips below!

Tip 1: Identify what’s going well

If you feel that you mainly focus on something that went wrong, change it immediately! Think about what did go well. You can find something in every training, even if it’s just that you’ve had enough time to give your horse a good grooming session and that he has enjoyed it so much.

Tip 2: Keep a gratitude journal

Keep a gratitude journal in which you write down three things about your horse and the training for which you are grateful on a daily basis. These can be simple things like:

  • grooming-horseI’m grateful that my horse walked up to me when I entered the meadow
  • I’m grateful that I had the time to give my horse a blissful grooming session
  • I’m grateful that my horse tried so hard to cooperate with me

But also things about the training:

  • horse-trotting-relaxedI’m grateful that my horse has overcome his/her fear of the ball today
  • I’m grateful that my horse was relaxed when trotting today
  • I’m grateful that I have learned how to ride shoulder-in in class

Tip 3: Find support

keeping-a-positive-mindset-while-riding-your-horseAsk your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend whether they want to be your “buddy”.  Tell them about your training with your horse every day, but only tell the positive things: everything that went well and that made you happy.
If you go riding together, agree on only talking positively about your horses and the training. If you talk positively about something, you cannot think negatively at the same time. That way, you learn another pattern: being positive instead of negative.

 Tip 4: Start each day positively

When you get up in the morning, say to yourself “I am looking forward to the next training with my horse! I’m going to approach it this way, so it should be a lot of fun!” This way, you start the day positively and it is easier to stay in that energy all day.

Tip 5: Reprogram yourself

Every time you’re stuck during training or think negatively because something is not going the way it should, make a habit of thinking: “This is fascinating… Why is it not working? How could I have done it differently? What a good opportunity to learn.”
This may feel a bit unnatural at first as your pattern is “Oh no, it’s not going the way it should… See, I knew I couldn’t do this” It takes a while before you have programmed yourself in such a way that you change from negativity to positivity, but if you persist, you will notice that it becomes easier. In the long run, you may even look forward to challenges!

Tip 6: Affirm

Use affirmations such as:

  • I can do it
  • My horse can do it
  • I’m having fun, my horse is having fun
  • Together we are strong
  • I’m a positive trainer
  • I have everything in me to achieve what I want to achieve
  • I love my horse, my horse is amazing
  • I feel confident about myself
  • We will succeed

Tip 7: Say STOP to yourself

stop-yourself-being-negative-when-training-your-horseLearn to recognize negative thoughts/statements. Deal with them consciously.

Every time you hear yourself being negative, say STOP in your mind! You can visualize a stop signal or even say STOP out loud if you are alone.

This will prevent you from thinking negatively more and more and ending up in a downward spiral. You need to take yourself out of that spiral as soon as you notice it.

You immediately have to think of something positive.  What did go well and what did you like? If necessary, say a positive affirmation.

Is this working? Good job! You have taken yourself out of that downward spiral! The more you do this, the faster you will notice it when you start thinking negatively. You become more aware of your behavior and mindset!

Tip 8: Ask yourself questions

Regularly ask yourself questions such as:

  • What can I do to change this?  For instance, your horse is always trotting too fast: how can I fix this instead of complaining? Maybe take a different approach, take a class, ask someone for advice?
  • What is the positive side of this “problem”?  For instance, it’s an opportunity to learn, it’s a first step to immerse myself in…, I learn to deal with this type of challenge,…
  • How can I develop myself on a personal level and as a trainer? Maybe by taking a course, lesson, reading, watching DVDs?

Tip 9: Use this powerful phrase as a mantra

Hang a piece of paper in the tack room, or in another place where you often are and where you cannot miss the paper. Write down in giant letters ‘When I think positively, I will have a positive training! My mindset determines how I experience my training!’ Repeat this statement as often as possible; use it as a mantra.

Tip 10: Remind yourself of the following

passion-for-horsesNever forget why you started riding and why you bought your own horse. You did that because you have a passion for horses. You love horses, are happy being around them, are happy training them, and it relaxes you.

You may have lost that connection somewhere along the way, because it was not going well, because you wanted too much, too fast … Recalling that feeling that you have a horse because you love horses so much takes away a lot of pressure.

It doesn’t have to be now, it doesn’t have to go a certain way, and you certainly do not have to be able to do this or that because someone else can do it.

I often find that negativity during training (in people who otherwise do not have a negative mindset) has something to do with ‘striving for a target’ too much. Let go of it for now, enjoy your horse, take your time, do it for yourself and for no one else…

Using the tips above, you can surely become a positive and optimistic partner and trainer for your horse again!

➤ P.S. if you want to stay positive and learn how to work in liberty with your horse, then join me and the growing circle of positive horsewomen (yes, +95% women, but men welcome too ; -). You can find us inside the Horsefulness Liberty Training Program


Success, and … stay positive!

Annette Dunbar

Annette Dunbar

on 4 May 2019

Thank you so much for such a wonderful article - I have sent the link to many people. Kind regards

Karine Vandenborre

Karine Vandenborre

on 5 May 2019

Thank you Annette for sharing the article!

judith briston

judith briston

on 6 May 2019

Thankyou, will always see the postive and always remain postive.

Nick Wright

Nick Wright

on 7 May 2019

Thank you Karine, this is a vey 'positive' article and very helpful.

Joy Greenhalgh

Joy Greenhalgh

on 1 February 2020

Fabulous article thank you Karine! What wonderful advice, and ideas that we can apply to our lives all the time, not just with horses. Part of my positive mindset is that I subscribed to your Liberty and Groundwork courses. I have absolute confidence in what you teach. Everything you suggest works out well ! Because I have your support it keeps me positive : I know I will not get "stuck". I have worked with another wonderful trainer in the past. She is on the other side of the world to me so I would send videos. They could be no more than 3 minutes long. For the first video I sent her I edited it so I included all the times things went wrong. I thought that if I did this she could correct my mistakes. She told me that if I approached my education with her that way it would not work ! She asked me to send her videos edited so that they had all the things that went well ! So I did as she suggested, and she would advise me on how to be even better. In this way I learnt that whilst I learnt from my mistakes, I learnt even more from my successes. It also made me positive because in the videos I looked like a really good horsewoman ……………. even though I knew really that in between all those great moments there was lots of times when my horse ran off, refused to move, pulled ugly faces, looked at me as if I were a mad woman, kicked out because I asked rudely...………. ha ha ha we all know those times hey? But making a video of all the things that go well is a nice exercise to do. Thank you again for this wise and wonderful advice and the happiness your help brings to me and my horses. Best wishes, Joy Greenhalgh

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