Now, about 15 years ago I was giving my first of many clinics in Danemark and on the way from the airport, the rider who picked me up asked me this: How do you not get so frustrated when training your horses. That question caught me off guard and I’ll admit I didn’t have a really good answer to that. So I answered some logical bla bla that you would expect someone to answer this type of question with but it’s stayed in the back of my mind since then. Especially since it’s something.. I also struggled with.
So if you think you can also use some tips on how to keep your cool when training your horses, here’s my two cent on that. Patience and temper are two very important qualities that every horse trainer needs to have.
Training a horse can be a long and challenging process, and it requires a lot of patience to work with the animal and help it learn new skills all the while understanding and loving it’s job.
This is why, it's important to be able to control your temper and stay calm, especially when things don't go as planned. So here are 5 tips plus a bonus tip at the end that I promise you is not a bait.. to keep you watching until the end. It’s really more like the finale of a fireworks show.. you don’t want to miss that. Ok? So let’s roll
Number One, one of the key ways to stay patient while training horses is to set realistic goals for yourself and the horse. Break down the training process into small, manageable steps that the horse has a better chance to understand and accomplish.
Remember horse trainer’s favorite saying that 1% a day for a 100 days will get you there is pretty accurate. What that 1% represents that day, is for you to determine before you start.
I admit I’m not a very good planner so I tend to go with the flow and let my horses decide what we are going to focus on that day. Which brings me.. to number two.
Another way to stay patient is to remember that every horse is different. Some horses learn quicker than others and may take longer to understand something. Don't compare the horse you're training to other horses you've worked with in the past or just before.
Instead, focus on the individual and approach it with a fresh slate. Even if the horse should be at the same level or even be more advanced as the others, they may just be slow learners and need more time to understand. That’s where tip number 3 comes in
Set yourself up for success with each horse you ride. By that I mean that as a horseman, it’s your responsibility to know each individual horse and what causes them to refuse or check out.
A lot of the time for me it’s getting the fresh out of them in the round pen or the longe line or changing my spurs or even taking them off or letting one of my assistants warm it up if their lack of expectations versus mine is soothing to a nervous horse or vice versa.. if they lack experience to deal with this type of horse. Then ill make sure I’m the only one riding it until he gets more confident.
Picking the best time of day for the horse is also something that will factor in seriously. Same with taking riding conditions into account and planning accordingly. Some will say well horses need to get used to this and that and consider some of these things to be excuses but not me. Not in the early stages anyways.. For me it’s the cumulative amount of good positive rides is what will build a solid foundation and confidence in the horse.
Tip number 4 to control your temper is to have the discipline to stop and breath deep breaths and count to ten before reacting to a situation. This will give you time to think about the situation and come up with a rational response.
In my case this was probably the hardest to master. I always felt that if I stopped my horse won. Won what.. the fight? The game? Well it’s usually not a fight unless you make it one.. or a game unless you play it.. but It took me a very long time to overcome that childish way of thinking and it’s still a constant challenge.
And a true horseman or horsewoman knows that horses are very forgiving. Way more forgiving than they she should be in my opinion and so.. trust that if you find the discipline to pause and regroup when all your sense scream the opposite at you, your horse will very likely already be a step ahead of you in that.
Last but not least, tip number 5. Use positive reinforcement. For example, I over praise my horses when they do something good. Even if it’s something small.. I’m a strong believer in communicating through body energy and so I’m not afraid to rub or pat one like I mean it.. Even say good girl or good boy when I pat em. Most of the time I even laugh because in some cases I’m pretty sure my horse isn’t even quite sure what they did well or what Im so happy about but I sure like to see them exhale and breathe and lick their lips.
Another thing I like doing is jump off and loosen the cinch at any point in time they did something good enough to reward with being done..
Every sign of complicity or effort from your horse should be clearly rewarded somehow. Pitch the reins, rub their neck.. stand and rest for a minute.. or whatever works for you.
Now, the bonus tip: don’t compare yourself or your horses to others. This has never really been hard for me to do but it’s affected many relationship between me and some of my customers over the years.
Truthfully, this is probably one of the main cause for trainers getting frustrated. It’s the pressure that the owners or even that they put on themselves with deadlines, or unrealistic goals or comparing their horses to what they see on social media.
Remember, if someone posts their horse on instagram doing something really cool, it’s probably because the horse is extraordinary at this particular thing and it does not reflect that their other horses in the barn.. or that your horses.. should be doing the same thing because they are the same age.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors on Social media and it’s more often than not what it appears to be. Alright I hope you found this interesting or entertaining or useful.. or all of the above.
It took me many years to develop the confidence and trust in my program and I believe you can too.
Click the link below to watch: