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  • Virginia Shaw, BTB Trainer

Progress Not Perfection

Life is all about progress. For example we don’t go from being born to immediately being able to walk. The same is true when it comes to horseback riding and training. Most success comes from slow progress; sometimes the progress feels so slow you can’t take it. Often times there are many steps backwards and frustration can happen.

Horse training, hunter/jumper, Thoroughbred, equestrian
Clara Mugnai riding 6 y/o Thoroughbred, Ranger

Training horses isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes patience, persistence and sense of not wanting to win. Many times we are at the mercy of the horse. Lots of trial and error attempting to find what the horse may or may not like. The fun part about progress is even when it’s slow, it is so rewarding.

Here are a few tips I use when training:

  • Have a plan: When you go out to train have a plan. You have to be flexible with the plan because the horse may decide to not like the plan on a specific day, but set some thoughts and goals ahead time. Do you want to establish a nice walk with forward connection; do you want to achieve a counter canter; are you going to practice serpentines and figure eights; perhaps you are trying new equipment and just want to do a basic ride to determine if it works. You get the idea…a plan always puts things in perspective and helps you decide if the progress is moving in the right direction.

  • Be Flexible: When you are training a horse you have to be willing to make it about them and not about you. This can be the hardest lesson when training because many of us have tight daily schedules and a timeline we expect to meet. When you are dealing with horses regularly, you learn quickly to expect the unexpected! Depending on the training you are doing, you have to be willing to bend and change in order to benefit and get the most out of the horse. Now don’t get me wrong, naughty behavior and certain antics have to be scolded, but make sure the punishment suits the crime. Our first priority as a rider is to bring out the best in our horse and we can only do that if we are willing to learn from them.

  • Do Different Things: I’ll be honest…I don’t do the same thing with my horse day in and day out. I wouldn’t want to do that, would you? So every week I come up with my weekly plan. Monday we may have a good flat. Tuesday we may ride in the field, (side note: I’m a huge fan of getting your horse on different footings. I firmly believe it creates strength and makes them sturdier on their hooves, so to speak). Wednesday we may trail ride. Thursday we may jump, etc…and guess what?? This is the crazy part, I ride 6 days a week, 20 MINUTES a day. Yes, you saw that correctly! Only 20 minutes a day. I found in my years of training, horses thrive on consistency. No one should come out, lunge their horse and ride for longer than 30 minutes a day doing the same thing over and over and then wonder why their horse is “Ring Sour”. This is another reason why I never do the same thing over and over. I want my horses to like what they do; I want to watch them excel and enjoy their jobs as much as I enjoy riding them.

Virginia riding 5 y/o Quarter Horse, Niko

When working with your horse always think, progress not perfection. Think more about the progress you wish to make versus making everything about being perfect. Make sure you are not only serving your needs but your horses as well.

Happy Horsin’

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Aili Robinson
Aili Robinson
Jun 03, 2020

Excellent points! I find having a *realistic* plan is the most important thing for me when I am working my young horse. I start with a plan to work on certain things like stretching, trotting cavalettis, etc., and I then I set a goal to complete something well that I know he already knows how to do. That keeps us both actively engaged and feeling accomplished at the end of our ride. I can't wait to see what training tips and tricks you come up with next month!

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