Let me share with you nine tips that will help you train your horse better! I recommend applying them all so that training your horse is easier and more fun!
Tip 1. Work on confidence first.
Make sure that your horse trusts you for a 100% before you start the training itself. Therefore, spend time with your horse during Liberty Training, groom or massage your horse, take a nice walk with your horse,… Only when a horse trusts you and the bond is strong, you are ready to start training!
Tip 2. Take your time.
Because slow is always faster! It sounds weird, but it is true! If you want to go too fast when training your horse, you make more mistakes and you often forget certain steps.
So try to train without time pressure. If you take the time needed, it will eventually go faster because you hardly have to take a step back. You give the horse all the time he/she needs to learn the required exercise step by step; this way, it will be confirmed better.
So no clock watching when you train your horse!
Tip 3. Know what you want.
This sounds obvious, but I often find that people do not know what they ultimately want to achieve. When I ask them what their goal is, the answer sometimes is “My goal? I have not really thought about it… Well, I suppose riding my horse very well?”
You train much more effectively when you make your goal specific. This means knowing exactly what you want your horse (and you) to be able to do. Let me give an example: if you intend to go on day trips with your horse, you can establish a four-fold training schedule:
1. A schedule to make the horse get used to trailerloading,
so you can drive to the destination
2. A schedule to make the horse get used to traffic
3. Working on the condition of your horse
4. Ensure the horse receives a basic dressage training
so he can carry you easily and you can ride safely
To continue with the same example: it often happens that people are not prepared when starting this; they then have to conclude at departure that they cannot put their horse in the trailer.
Therefore, know what you want and define your goal(s) in advance. Goals can change, obviously, just make a new plan!
Tip 4. A good preparation is half the work.
Here is another thing that happens often. All of the sudden people think, “It seems fun to teach my horse this or that.” They have seen in a demo, for example, that you can teach your horse to stand on a stage. Then they come home, all excited, get their horse and get started. Success fails to materialize… The horse does not understand and becomes nervous, the human becomes frustrated…
The reason for this is that there is no preparation. Before you teach your horse something, you should have an approach. All roads lead to Rome, but if you do not know the way, you will not get there or you will wander very far before finally reaching your destination. Take a good look at the map and prepare, think of what means of transport you will take and think about what you need during the trip…
The same applies when training horses: what do I need for it, what way is the right way, how can I prepare my horse?
Tip 5. Put away your ego!
Ego-tripping negatively affects the training. Ego-tripping: it is a bit of a dirty word … Yet we human beings are all guilty of it at one point in time.
Here is an example: “Right, over there is someone I would like to impress with my horse.” I guarantee you that the trick “you can do” will fail… It is as if the horse says, “I should teach your ego a lesson.” You will notice that the dangerous “ego voice” will put you to the blush.
Horses sense whether there is real contact or a “fake” contact driven by ego. Fortunately, you can learn to recognize that ego voice in time; consequently, it will come to mind increasingly less… Practice recognizing your ego voice and stop it!
Tip 6: Have fun and let your horse have fun!
This may seem obvious, but it is often forgotten. People often go train something because it is ‘supposed to be done’ this way. For instance, I was recently training with someone who thought she needed to get on her horse as quickly as possible, because her horse was a “show jumping horse” and everybody at the stable thought she ‘needed to get the most out of it.’ However, the woman did not have a good connection with her horse and she did not like jumping. Her horse did not like jumping either. Ideally, they went for a walk in the woods.
She was relieved when I told her that she should not go horse riding when she did not feel like it, and that, once she got the desire back, she should go riding in the woods instead of jumping. It was what she had felt, but she let others influence her, so she never worked on the connection with her horse and reluctantly started jumping.
Make sure that what you are doing feels right and that it is fun to you. The horse will sense your positive attitude!
Tip 7: Try to be in good shape too.
Those stiff and out of breath after walking 50 meters will train one’s horse less well than those in good shape will. If you work out to your own abilities, you feel better, you are more positive, you are tired less and you have better reflexes (which is sometimes necessary when handling horses). Consequently, you will also be better able to handle and train your horse!
Even if you only go jogging for 10 minutes 3 times a week, and you only do five minutes of flexibility exercises every day, it is better than nothing! Besides, if you keep up with such a light schedule for a while, you will naturally want to do more! So go do it!
Tip 8: Listen to your horse.
The best trainers are people who listen to what the horse has to say. Horses communicate constantly, though it may be so subtle that it is almost invisible. Try to open up to what the horse is trying to say to you. Does he/she roll with the eyes? Have you used too much pressure? Does he/she wag the tail for a moment? Does he/she push with the shoulder? Does he/she look angry? Does he/she turn its ears? Maybe you go too fast or too slow… He/she also shows you what is going well and what he/she likes, but do you see it? Practice observing your horse during training, so that you do not end up in the ‘I say and you do’ mode. Training is communication!
Tip 9: Last but not least, be happy with every little progress!
Do not expect miracles! We really ask a lot of our horses! Work step by step and be happy with every progress, even if it is small! If you are too demanding, you will end up frustrated; the horse can only give you that of which he/she is capable.
Everything you get, you should be grateful for; it means that your horse has understood what you wanted from him/her and that you have taught him/her something new! Feel free to feel proud and be glad.
In addition, do not forget your horse. If you are very happy, show this to your horse! On the photo, I reward my horse Niki with a carrot: “Yes, you did a good job!”
I wish you good luck with training your horse!