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.
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.
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.
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