4 Questions to ask before you persist

After publishing our last article ‘New Year, New You’ we received loads of questions and feedback from many of you about the subjects that you would like to read more about, especially surrounding young horses.

As promised I will try to address all of your questions and dilemma’s in the coming articles and of course my offer still stands: if you have a question or subject you would like to learn more about, just let me know and, if possible, I will address it in future articles.

We’ll start with one of the questions one of our readers sent in, Loes:
‘How can you assess if a young horse is ready for a certain exercise? I struggle with this sometimes; when my horse doesn’t want to/cannot do an exercise, sometimes you should persist while on a different occasion it might just be too early for that specific exercise.’

A good question obviously since it’s also practical for loads of riders with mature horses, not just youngster owners. When, whenever your horse says ‘no’ do you persist and when do you decide to safe the exercise for later?1461006_10202208407672352_1417515350_n

This is the moment where a bit of self-discipline and planning come into play from our side. You as trainer/leader/rider/gymnastic teacher/alpha… are responsible for making sure your horse doesn’t get any challenges he cannot handle. Of course we make a mistake in judgement from time to time, but that put aside, it’s your job to prepare your horse for what is expected of him.

This means that, even before asking your horse for a (new) exercise you ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Is he physically capable? (Is he healthy and pain free? Is he being hindered by his tack, obstacles or you? Have you trained him enough that he has the needed amount of power/flexibility/balance for this exercise?)
  2. Is he mentally capable? (Have you broken the exercise down into little pieces before and has he mastered those? Is he well prepared? Is it according to his level of thinking; if you’ve never given your horse a mental puzzle before than don’t expect him to understand how to go around the cone, through the hoop, backwards into the trailer and touch the bar with his tail….just to give you an example)
  3. Is he emotionally capable? (Is he calm enough? Will this exercise put him into a state of adrenaline that he hasn’t learned how to deal with yet?)
  4. Is your relationship at the right level yet? (Does he like you, respect you and trust you enough?)

Is the answer to some of these questions ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’ than make that into a ‘yes’ first. How you do that depends on the kind of problem. You might need a better warming-up to get his attention, spend more time training his muscles or prepare him better by practicing the separate pieces of the puzzle first so he’ll understand the bigger picture better.

When you’ve made sure that the answer to all of your questions is an honest ‘yes’ as far as you can tell then you now have enough reason to politely, patiently but very consistently stick to your plan. You are the leader, you’ve prepared him well, and now the best thing to do is to prove to him that your question wasn’t just a whim but that you mean what you say.

Of course it can than still happen that, in the middle of the exercise, you realize that it really was too hard for your horse. That’s alright. A good leader knows how to recognize a mistake made, apologize and take a step back.

Just remember to think logically. When, during the exercise, your horse starts throwing a tantrum or gets distracted…and you know rationally that you’ve set everything up for success and he should be able to do it…than stick to it! It’s important for your horse that he sees that you know what you’re doing, even if he doesn’t understand why yet.
And then quit when he’s improved.

Hopefully this answers your question Loes. And obviously we’d love to hear about your progress!


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