When To Ask For More From Your Horse

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What are your expectations of your horse? Do you expect him to be lazy and have to be cued repeatedly until spanked every time you ask him to trot? Do you expect him to stand still on a totally loose rein when you mount? Do you expect him to go around the arena star-gazing and hollowed out in his neck and back? Do you expect him to stand patiently and wait when you ask?

One thing I know about horses is that they will give you no more than you ask for. A good horse will give you no less than what you ask for, but he has to be motivated to give you more. Depending on your horse’s temperament, he may try really hard all the time—almost to a fault (this is my horse Dually) or he may only try harder under threat of major penalty.

You may think it is best to have the former—the try-hard superstar horse, but in actuality people get in far less trouble with the horses that don’t try too hard. For many people, a horse that questions you every now and then, “are you sure you want to do that?”, is not a bad thing. I learned some time ago to be very careful who I let sit on Dually because if you over-cue him, say, to canter, you’d better hang onto your hat because he will be in the next county before you can blink.

But in spite of Dually’s try-hard die-hard attitude in life, sometimes I don’t ask enough of him and, as Terry Wegener said to me recently, I am just too nice to him. But gosh Terry, he tries so hard…. But the more I ask of him the more he gives me and the more I get after him, the harder he tries and the harder he tries, the better he performs. It’s a shame I don’t have the time in my schedule to show him but I sure have a blast riding him.

Our Horse Master episode called Private Lesson is about a lovely woman in her 60s that has ridden all of her life, so she’s pretty good. But she’s never had formal lessons of any kind (I cannot imagine that!). Her horse is a bit lazy, although compliant—a great horse for her. This episode is about how to ask for more from her horse—for him to round his frame and engage his hocks a little and hold himself in the requested frame.

For the most part, we all need to ask more from our horses, at times. More obedience, more responsiveness, more focus and effort when they are working. For those try-hard horses, we have to be careful not to over-tax them emotionally and physically—although these Ferrari-type horses are awesome, they are high-maintenance machines that break down frequently. But the average horse only tries as hard as your leadership and authority demands and will only rise to your level of expectation.

What kind of horse do you have, try hard or not so hard? Are your expectations (not in your dreams but in what you expect to happen each time you ride) too high or too low?

Enjoy the ride,