Is it You or Your Horse
Just like in any relationship, communication is essential to the success of you and your horse. The simple straight truth is that 95% of most horse problems are truly people problems. It may be the rider's or handler's lack of understanding of their inability to clearly convey their wishes to the horse. If you are willing to take the time to listen to what the horse is trying to tell you, most of the training problems that we encounter on a daily basis will begin to take care of themselves. From the moment we head to the barn in the morning to feed, to the moment we decide to call it a day, we are teaching them habits. So it is up to you to decide if those habits will be good or bad.
If you are encountering the same problem with your horse on a daily basis, don't keep doing what you are doing. You are doomed to get the same results. One of the easiest but often overlooked tools almost everyone has in their household is a video camera. Whether you have an actual video recorder, or a phone with a built in video or even an Ipod, most riders have the ability to record their ride. OK, so you'll need a friend, or enemy, to operate it. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to have someone tape you working with your horse. Video will not lie. You will be able to watch the tape repeatedly to see what is really happening. Use the video to improve and refine your training techniques. An added bonus of recording your ride is if you can't seem to fix the issue or accomplish a task, you can take the tape/video to a local professional trainer to see if they can give you some tips on correcting the problem.
"My horse won't" is a clue that there is a communication issue between rider and the horse. Usually the horse has reached the point that he is literally "screaming" at the rider. When you find yourself saying, "My horse won't," first, make sure it isn't a physical problem. Ask yourself, is my horse sound, ringing his tail, acting irritated, tossing his head? These are all signs that your horse is trying to tell you something is hurting or bothering him. Your horse may be achy or tired just like you are in the morning after a hard workout. Or he may have something more serious going on in his hocks or back, or he may be simply acting disobedient. You need to be observant of what he is trying to tell you. If you don't listen and force the issue, I guarantee you will end up getting into an argument. A few easy days of riding over a horse's life will not ruin his career, but ignoring the signs that a horse is sore and hurting can turn that injury into a career ender.
Horses are not machines. They need time to relax, recover after a hard ride, or just spend some time being a horse. They also have good and bad days, as well as get sore and tired. Just because you are feeling great and want to work on stopping or lead changes or half passes, your horse might not be 100% on that day. Ride with a mental checklist of what you are looking to accomplish on that ride for that day, start your warm up and see if your horse is working like your partner. Once warmed up then start your exercise and work on your problems areas. Accept small improvements and move to the next skill. Don't drill and drill and drill and drill. When he does something well, reward him with a break.
Like any athlete, don't forget to cool your horse down before dismounting. This may be accomplished by walking around the ring on a loose rein or take him for a walk around the property or down a trail. This will give his muscles a chance to stretch and cool down. Remember horse are flesh and bone with feelings. Treat them with respect, listen to their needs, and they will always try to please you.
As Always; Ride Hard, Be Safe, Have Fun – Steve Kutie