Take pressure off yourself and your horses by embracing a slow training process.
I could make a long list about all of the challenges of becoming a more accomplished horseman. We’ve got to think about our feel, the amount of pressure, our goals, our horses as individuals, their health, capabilities and so much more. But I think one of the toughest elements to conquer when improving our riding horsemanship is finding the time.
That’s right—time always seems to be against us. We live in a world where being busy, for some strange reason, is celebrated. In our own business, with a barn full of horses and only a limited amount of working hours available, sometimes it feels like the clock is our enemy. Our customer’s horses are always the priority and our own mares and geldings often sit on the backburner. Sure, we find little pockets of time and try to make as much happen in their training as possible. And even without long hours of dedication, we see small improvements—at least, enough to continue simply “working them in.” They get a little better at different maneuvers and slowly become more settled and seasoned.
To be completely candid, there was a certain amount of satisfaction I felt when we would ride a large amount of horses in one day. There was a pride in numbers. We would get a little bit done on many horses, day after day. And I figured that was certainly acceptable, especially with the amount of things we had to attempt in one day.
But honestly, I think we need a firm reminder from time to time that slowing down is more effective. Taking our time on individual horses is not a selfish luxury, but a necessity of good horsemanship. We need to forget about the pressures of the clock and let the concept of training, feel and timing take its course.
As horsemen, often we need to do less and wait longer.
Now, I’m not just talking about carving out an exorbitant amount of hours to dedicate to a slow plod down the trail. It doesn’t mean that I need to stay away from speed, deadlines or challenges. I don’t need to weakly ask my horse for tiny maneuvers or mental flexibility. The idea of “do less and wait longer” can translate to all corners of my horsemanship quest. I need to let my horse search for the answer and not speed him up with hopes that he’ll find it. When I am teaching a weanling to lead and accept a halter, I need to remember that short, simple periods prove more valuable than trying to get the whole concept in one day. It’s safer, too! On our performance horses, even with the pressures of futurities, sales and time constraints, we’ve got to remember that teaching them with patience and understanding will help them become more broke and seasoned in the long run. I’ve written before about the benefits of just sitting horseback and letting my gelding settle and stand quietly.
And just because a horse doesn’t understand a concept within a span of seconds does not mean I need to turn up the pressure. It’s all good stuff.
I’m feeling inspired and I’m excited to continue experimenting with this. I know it’s a challenge, as I am constantly looking for a little gratification with every stride (and yes, I have a tendency to expect too much, too quickly!) Sometimes I feel like I only have a small window of time to accomplish many things and I want to squeeze them all in one allotment.
It’s going to be easy for me to forget this concept. With summer approaching and autumn just behind, we have lots of colts lined up to start and plenty of places to be. To ride and enjoy my own horses is a privilege, and I know I will get to rushing through them. But, I’ve got to keep telling myself to enjoy the process and really try to pursue a better approach to horsemanship than just “hitting the high spots” day after day.
Whether I’ve got a mere 20 minutes or a luxurious three hours, I believe to find a more lasting success in the pursuit of being better with my horses I need to embrace the process and make the clock my friend.
I need to do less and wait longer.