Advancing Your Horsemanship Without Destroying Your Horse
- By Don Jessop
The two biggest problems with advancing your horsemanship are:
1. Injuries plague advanced rider’s horses
2. Mental stress levels increase for horses as training demands ramp up
Ask just about anybody who’s made it to high levels of dressage. Ask any good reining trainer. Ask any good polo player. Ask any good performance rider, in any category, and you will find they have been through many horses.
Why? You guessed it. Either the horse became injured during training or even outside of training, but never recovered fully. Or, the mental stress of the horse became overwhelming. In which case… the horse burned out. It happens more often than you might think.
So how does a master solve the problems that plague most trainers?
Consider these factors.
Injuries in training, or even outside training, require impressive amounts of time for the horse to make a full recovery. Most riders, are in a hurry, and therefore never let the injury heal properly. A joint injury, for instance, could take several months, maybe even a full year to make a full recovery. Then once it heals, that joint has to regain it’s former strength.
Master trainers know how long it takes to heal. They are in no hurry to win the gold. The horse is more important than the blue ribbon or the significance your friends might shower upon you. The horse is more important than the trail ride you’ve been planning all summer. The horse is worth the time it takes to heal.
Obviously, some injuries are permanent. There is nothing anyone can do about those. But injuries related to training, often occur when the horse is distracted or tired. Master horsemen and horsewomen read the horses body language constantly.They know when the horse begins to fatigue, and in general, a master will cycle through training skills. By cycle, I mean: ask for what you want, then rest, then ask, then rest again. Cycling is one of the greatest keys to success. Any trainer who just asks, and asks, and asks, and asks, attempting to get perfection, is missing one of the greatest gifts Mastery training offers. The training cycle.
Mental stress levels increase with higher levels of training too. Often trainers, work with a horse for a year or two, then tire of the horse’s incessant, irrational behavior. They pawn the horse off to a person who has more time to deal with a stressed out horse and move on to a horse with less emotional baggage. Ironically, within a year or two, the same problems creep in to the new relationship. In my career, some of the best horses I’ve ever owned came from trainers who grew tired of the horses mental stress levels. I’ve acquired premium quality horses for pennies on the dollar, in situations like those.
It’s not difficult, once you know the strategies, to become successful with any horse. Once you know the training cycle, inside and out like I do, you can become masterful with horses. You can progress to the highest levels of mastery without losing your horse. You can avoid heightened stress levels by slowing down and cycling through tasks in a way that keeps your horse sound and happy. You can learn to read a situation and change your approach to minimize mental and physical stresses on the horse. Your leadership skills can increase ten fold. All the while you, you and your horse keep steady progress toward the top level maneuvers in your favorite part of the horse industry.
Mastery, is really about leadership. What does it take to be the best leader your horse deserves? Take a look at my book and find out.
You can buy it on Amazon too, if you prefer. Here is the link: Leadership and Horses on Amazon
In summary, if you want to succeed at the highest levels of horsemanship without losing or destroying your horse, you’ll need to consider slowing down. You’ll want to open your mind to more education. To better practices. And most importantly, begin to see the horse as a living, breathing, thinking, being, instead of four legs and strong back.
More than likely, if you’ve read this far through the article, you are one of those people who is willing to invest your time and resources into progress and self improvement.
I thank you for your time.
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