How to Enjoy Your Horse More


Enjoy your horse by setting realistic expectations. No horse knows it all, does it all, and performs perfectly every time you saddle up. I live with horses because I love them. Maybe you’ve noticed that perfection and love mix about as well as oil and water.

Knit-picking isn’t fun. It’s tedious and annoying. Who would you rather spend the day with, someone who critiques your every word and move or someone who invites you to celebrate the morning and for making it to dinner time without dialing 911?

The more your horse delights in time with you the more you enjoy your horse.

Celebrate Time with Your Horse

Be your horse’s head cheerleader!

A horse that obeys 80% of the time refuses 20% of the time. Horses that obey most things may not obey everything. Horses do what they enjoy and willingly do more when it doesn’t cost them much to go along. But when the price goes up through increased effort, discomfort, or confusion, they quit.

No horse is one-hundred percent obedient and no rider or handler is one-hundred percent perfect in what she or he asks. What’s most important to me these days is how much fun we have and if my horses love spending time with me.

The 80-20 Rule of Training Horses

The Pareto Principle suggests that twenty percent of effort yields eighty percent of results. Originally referring to wealth and population, the 80-20 Rule is widely accurate when you compare most input and output relationships.

Like training horses.

Eighty percent of what you want your horse to do comes from twenty percent of your training efforts. The last twenty percent of performance or responsiveness, and eighty percent of your effort, is spent in the pursuit of perfection.

Horses learn to carry riders at the walk, trot, and canter in a relatively short time. Balance, cadence, framing, and the finer points of gait, self-carriage, and performance develop slowly. Most horses can trot the first time they’re ridden. That’s a BIG transformation. Piaffe, a slow elevated trot without forward movement, takes years to perfect.

Progress is a direction, not a speed.

Lynn Baber


Set Realistic Expectations

Too many people are dissatisfied with their horse, themselves, or both, because they set unrealistic expectations based on what someone else is doing. Comparison kills joy when it produces either undeserved pride or dissatisfaction.

There are lots of things I could do with my horses. I know how to train them – but I’m not particularly interested in achieving greater skills at the moment because I don’t have the time or physical soundness. The horses are able, but I’m not willing.

Relationships Change Constantly

Relationship isn’t static. My horses and I aren’t finished achieving new goals, but enhanced skills isn’t one of them today.

I want my horses to seek my company as much as I seek theirs. Performance isn’t high on my hit parade at the moment. The ponies already know more than I ask for, but aren’t tuned and peaked, and I don’t expect more than the basics as far as riding skills.

We’re exploring what growing older together looks like. No drama, shame, or disappointment. Some days I seek pure leisure with the ponies. Oh sure, we’re still gonna sweat now and then, but not emotionally.

Ask What Your Horse Can Give and Accept With Delight

Obedience is earned. If you’re not willing to do what it takes to deserve more, accept the eighty percent you have with gratitude and move on. That’s realistic. Your horse has the final vote on what she is able and willing to do. If you don’t like what you’re getting, offer her a better deal if it’s worth the effort, time, or cost to you. with

If you want more from your horse, strategize a training strategy, keeping in mind that incremental improvements come more slowly as you get deeper into the twenty percent that’s left to achieve.

The older I get the more I value the togetherness of life with horses instead of the stretch for greater achievement.

Offer Your Horse Great Options

No one can make you do something you don’t want to. Life is a series of options. In most cases, you choose the most attractive one. Sometimes you choose the least worst. That’s a situation I never want to give a horse, putting up with something he considers negative because I didn’t offer a better option.

Traditional horse training gives a horse an array of choices, teaching her which one makes her life easier. Sometimes there’s an “or else” factor involved. Motivation determines what choice the horse makes.

Motivation can be positive or negative. “Or else” is generally a negative motivator. I prefer to offer horses alternatives that are good, better, and wonderful.

Input Determines Output

Some days you only bring eighty percent of your game to the barn because you’re preoccupied, bruised from tripping over the dog, or exhausted from two weeks of pushing to meet a deadline.

That’s okay. Eighty percent is plenty to make time with your horse productive. You can visit, review, or read to her. What matters is that when you tuck her in for the night you look forward to the next time – and so does she.

Perfect Peace

Horses crave soul rest as much as you do. Adrenaline rushes from shared challenges are fabulous as long as you and your horse enjoy peace together.

Be that.

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects (pursuit of perfection), you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

Galatians 5:6 (MSG)

Related post: Horses – The Finger of Faith

Check out The Gospel Horse Series on Amazon

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Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber is a best-selling Christian author, speaker, and coach who helps people accomplish God's unique purpose for them and advance His kingdom on earth. She's also a retired World and National Champion horse trainer and breeder.

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber is a best-selling Christian author, speaker, and coach who helps people accomplish God's unique purpose for them and advance His kingdom on earth. She's also a retired World and National Champion horse trainer and breeder.

6 Responses

  1. Lynn, thank you for this, permission to just enjoy my horses. I am a fellow girl who grew up loving horses but got lost in performing with them, lost the joy and gave them up for a long time. I am back now and feel like I’m learning all over again. No performance required. I think it takes far more time to progress in relationship than most are willing to allow (including me). I feel the constant pull to prove through them and my ability to make them behave in certain ways, but that doesn’t leave much room for their input. I hear things (some in my own head, some from others) like “they should be farther than this by now,” or “I could’ve done it in 30 days,” but I know my horses, and I know myself and I know that we are progressing, that we are better than we were. It’s a constant struggle to let that be enough, hopefully one I will get better at in time. Thank you again for your encouragement.

    1. I love your comment, Liz. My horse season is changing drastically and competition is permanently in the past, but the possibilities of deeper relationship and continuing to learn from the horses is there – and maybe brighter than it was before. If it’s right for your horse, it’s probably right for you! One lesson I learned from working primarily with special-needs horses for the past 10 years is that time isn’t a construct horses care about. They’re 100% into trust.

  2. Getting older and not feeling well I love your words about just spending time with the horses and enjoying each other
    Taking care of each other
    And maintaining good relationship are the main things much more important to me right now than making great strides of training

    1. If we’re honest and don’t have to meet a client’s performance expectation, isn’t that the way it should have always been? I’ve wondered. The blessing is in relationship; smelling the roses. Basking in the delightfully simple yet challenging company of horses. Seeing the world through the eyes of children is a totally different experience. Why not seek that same magic by sharing the perspective our horses bring. Many blessings to you, Marilyn!

  3. Thank you for reiterating what is important. I use to compare and lacked so much confidence. No pressure is needed. The softness is dear to me and to Carousel as well as Bandy shine. We are so blessed and our actions and interactions can speak volumes in silence to the true listener. Susan. Thanks as always to you Lynn. I am enjoying the Breath of crazy horse.

    1. Life is a series of changes. I’m as tempted to DO instead of THINK as much as anyone. Only when I become aware that my peace isn’t perfect will I stop and look for the reason. It’s always me, and usually tied to some “need to” or comparison. If we took the time to ask our horses for their opinion we’d fall off the wonderful path of relationship far less often. Be blessed, Susan.

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