Want to make horse training fun for you AND your horse? Check out these tips to make the next training session a great one.
The Pivoriders Team
Schooling your horse for show jumping or dressage can get repetitive and even frustrating for you and boring for your horse. This article aims to help you have effective yet fun training sessions and avoid horse boredom, which is one of the major causes of horse behavior problems. Use these tips to make horse training fun!
Take your horse out
If you can take your horse out of the arena and the weather allows, go for a trail walk before and after you enter the arena. If you are having a hard time doing an exercise or your horse lost focus, go out for a quick trail ride and return to work.
Let your horse be a horse and relax. Also, give yourself a good time to relax and enjoy every moment you spend with your mate.
If you can’t do this, don’t worry, you still can enjoy great quality time with your horse and avoid boredom.
Don’t be hard on yourself or your horse
Practice makes perfect, right? But if you are trying a new exercise, for example, and it’s not coming out even after you repeat it several times, don’t push it.
In this case, repetition will only cause you frustration, and your horse will feel it. Besides, your horse will get bored of repeating the same once and again. We all have good and bad days, so don’t push yourself or your horse. If you can’t reach your goal after a reasonable time, move on to a different exercise. Try passing over poles on the ground, doing big circles, or changing your pace. Before doing it, relax, stretch your horse, and give him a break.
If you are training for a show jumping class and have one of those days where nothing seems to go well, don’t push it. If you are practicing jumping a course and struggling, lower the fences. Set them to a height you find safe and comfortable to jump and give the both of you a good dose of confidence. Jump the course several times and give your horse a break.
Let it breathe, loosen your reins, and pat him on the neck while you walk the arena in a relaxed and extended walk. Take your feet out of the stirrups and feel your horse. Try to feel your connection with him and take some deep breaths. Then rise the fences a little bit, let’s say 10cm, and jump the course again. If you did it well, go up another 10cm until you reach the desired height. If things didn’t go as planned, set one or two fences at the goal height and jump them a couple of times. Then finish your jumping session for the day.
Think outside of the box
Always try new things. If you are a show jumper, don’t limit yourself to warming up a little and jumping an oxer and a vertical. Nowadays, there are lots of gymnastics that are fun and very practical. They help you and your horse to improve pace, balance, your horse’s jumping mechanics, your jumping position, and more. You can find many examples online and play with distances to see what you and your horse can do.
Besides, you can alternate flat work with jumping fences after a good warm-up. You can include fences and poles on the ground to work on your horse’s balance, rhythm, stamina, and strength.
If you are practicing dressage, you can avoid routine by using poles on the ground, gymnastic cones, and other elements in your arena. Have some fun with your horse and take your and his mind out of the classic figures. This is very important, especially when training young horses that get easily bored. Think of them as if they were small children. Imagine yourself as a child and think how boring some lessons were! All horses, but young horses especially, are fast learners, but they also have shorter attention spans than mature horses. That’s why it’s important to keep them focused, which is hard to get when they are bored. Don’t keep repeating the same exercises again and again. Variation will result in more productive and entertaining dressage training sessions. Do lots of transitions, circles, half halts, and focus on going behind your horse while you plan your movements with anticipation.
Even the best-planned training sessions can fail, so be ready to change plans on the fly. Think about horse riding as if you were playing a team sport, your teammate is a live being, and either of you can have a bad day. That’s why you must be flexible and ready for a change of plans. This will save you and your horse unnecessary bitter moments.
Make a fun work plan
As contradictory as it may sound, you should make a work plan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. You know your goals, what you want for yourself and your horse, and what competitions you may have ahead.
Avoid routine and include things that you think are fun in your work plan. You can try things that you never tried before or that you find challenging and/or amusing. Set small reasonable goals that will help you reach your main big goal, and have some backup plans just in case.
You will be happy and willing to keep training as you achieve each goal. Enjoying your riding will help you improve your concentration. In equestrian sports, it’s important always to keep learning. It’s crucial that your plan also keep your horse engaged and eager to keep working with you.
Also, remember that your horse is also an athlete, and the sport has to be fun for both of you.