Sometimes you shouldn’t!

(“Event riders are easier to teach . . . “)   

I’m sure we all know prideful people who want to train their horse without anyone else ever having been on it. That’s fine if they know how to do it and everything is proceeding as they wish. But there are times when that approach is simply not possible.

Two things can generally get in their way: The most obvious problem is a horse who comes with “baggage,” one who has been mistreated or gotten away with bad behavior and not been corrected. Second possibility: the horse who is simply young and strong and is more impressed with his own opinion than his rider’s. The rider in question may have a lot of miles in the saddle, but if her experience is limited to placid trail horses or well trained show horses, she may discover too late that a large, green warmblood is a whole new kettle of fish!

Here is the first rule: if your horse is making you fearful, GET HELP NOW. If a knowledgeable, trusted advisor concludes you’ve bitten off too large and difficulty a project, don’t be afraid to get a different horse! There is no shame in that.

On the other hand many training issues are remediable if you take enough time. You still may need help and advice but go back far enough to the root of the problem and stay there until you have solved it. Sometimes it’s not minutes or days. It can be weeks or months if it’s a deep seated issue.

I have jokingly said that event riders are easier to teach than dressage riders because they have fewer scruples. By that I mean if you are questioning every single thing you do on your horse with a classical conscience screaming in the back of your head that you’re not following the book, it will be much harder to solve a problem horse. I am certainly not condoning cruelty or intemperance or impatience, but it can take an unfamiliar amount of strength and physical determination to make a rank youngster respect your physical space and learn some humility.

Many years ago I had a string of school horses for novice riders. The routine was that each student  would check the bulletin board for whom she would ride, then tack the horse up, and bring him to the arena to mount. Often I could tell by how the horse led across the driveway whether the ride would be successful or not. If, heaven forbid, the student came to the arena horseless and announced, “Bristol won’t let me in his stall,” I knew we were in big trouble! I knew that if I went to the barn with her, Bristol would hurriedly dive his chin into the tack and smile innocently at me.

Whether you call this rapport or establishing your relative positions in the food chain, the point is when your horse knows his place, training him gets much easier!