What next? What is the dream? What can you achieve in the next 12 months with your horse? What can you
experience during the next 12 months with your horse and where will that experience take you to?!!
WHAT IS THE DREAM?!!
It’s the beginning of a new year and at times like this we tend to look at where we
are in life, and that includes where we’re at with our horse, where we’d like to go and how to make the next step.
These are the sorts of questions we often ask ourselves about our horses and of course it doesn't have to be at the beginning of the calendar year… horses may be aware of the passing seasons but I very much doubt they know or care too much about the human calendar year! !! With your own horse it can be especially tough sometimes to know how to take the nextstep, what to do, how to proceed and what might be a realistic possibility…!!!
WHAT IS THE DREAM?!
A question I often ask riders at the beginning of a clinic is “what is the dream?” What I mean by that is let's have a look at the big picture, let's dare to think what we would love to do with our horse. For some it is a gallop on the beach or through the forest and feel in control. For some it is to jump without feeling terrified. To some it is Piaffe, Passage or the flying changes. For some the ultimate dream is to have a totally safe reliable equal partnership with their magnificent horse. ! Whatever the dream is for you it is worth thinking about it, daring to look at it and to admit honestly to yourself that it is where you would REALLY like to go.
When I use the word ‘dare’ I don’t mean it in a fearful way or to feel limited by a lack of belief in yourself or your horse but in an expansive way, in a way to get excited about what may be possible, to be inspired and motivated.!!
So what is the next step, once you have dared to dream? What is the process of progressing? That is where good teaching or coaching can really help, but only if the teacher or coach is hearing you and looking at your horse and you rather than sticking to their own rigid formula about how things ‘should’ be or how good something ‘should’ look… !!
THINGS TO DO!
In practical terms on a day-to-day basis it is always worth remembering a few things. Even if you don’t know what to do next you
can always make yourself useful by doing the following:
• Accept that training a horse takes ages. (It took about four years for me to establish a reliable Passage in my advanced horse,
so relax and give it time!)!
• If you don’t know what else to try you can always be useful by doing simple suppling exercises with the horse, such as flexions,
turn on the forehand, leg yield, shoulder-in, Half-pass, pirouettes, small circles and many many simple transitions etc. Check out
my books How to Create the Perfect Riding Horse and Dressage the Light Way if you don't have access to regular help on my
clinics and you should get some ideas on that stuff… !
• And you can always think about sitting better and better with a good posture, with a light floating feeling in the rein and leg aids
and maintaining mindfulness about how the aids are applied, about how you sit with balance and about your own inner
calmness when you ride.!!
Setting goals is a big subject all on its own, one which I will write another piece about in more detail very soon. When I ask riders
the question ‘what is the dream’ what I am talking about is a big goal. The good news is that all you need to do to get to the big
goal is achieve lots of small goals along the way! The small goals are practical steps, bite-sized pieces, things to do that are
easy but gradually build a solid foundation that ultimately takes you and your horse towards fulfilling your bigger goals and dreams…A very experienced coach or teacher can help you with those practical or technical steps, assuming they have adequate experience and insight and have made the same journey for themselves with their own horses. !!
The phrase ‘chunking down’ means to dismantle things and look at them in smaller and more manageable pieces. This is a very useful way to look at the training of the horse because it takes a long time train a horse and if you do it in tiny tiny steps it becomes very achievable for most people and most horses.
So, let's say for example your big dream is to make flying changes. If we chunk down the ingredients or small goals towards riding aflying change what are they?
Well, we need a supple and responsive and balanced canter. We need the horse to be 100% reliable about his canter leads from the trot and walk. We need the canter strike-offs to be instant and light off the leg. We need the horse to be ableto do some half-pass (sideways movements) in the canter. We need calmness in thecanter. All of those are small goals which we can work on individually and aim towards getting them better and better. And when they are all fantastic the horse will bring the big dream or the goal to you, i.e.the flying change. !!
Let us take another example of chunking down a big goal with small ones: let's say we want a horse to be a quiet, safe and calm horse for trail riding. What are the ingredients we need for that and how do we achieve them? We need a horse who is non-reactive about seeing anything on the trail, and for that we could initially take the horse for walks in hand so that he has the chance to see everything with us by his side; it will also build the essential trusting partnership between you and the horse. We can also work on the obedience of the leg and rein aids in a calm, safe environment such as an arena until the horse becomes very nice and responsive to the rider. We also need the horse to pay attention and listen to us completely. For that we need to work on keeping his attention at all times even when leading him on the stable yard until it becomes his habit and our habit that he is listening to us all of the time. It also pays to set things up to win, for example riding out with another calm experienced companion horse; or to avoid dangerous situations such as busy roads; or to make the trail ride on the horse a circular route and not going out, turning round and heading back home again by exactly the same route and probably too quickly… Working on all of those small chunks or small goals will ultimatelygive us a 100% safe and enjoyable trail horse.!!
The conclusion then is to be able to look at what we REALLY want and then to
be able to look at all the small steps that will go into achieving what we want.
It is far easier to see what to do next when you see that all you have to do is
tiny steps on a day to day basis, keep things simple and keep every step
forwards something small enough to be do-able by you and your horse…!!…
Smile and dare to dream! Perry
MASTER SITTING TROT
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to read the article from Horsemagazine