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Difficult Horses Have the Most Lessons to Teach
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Difficult Horses Have the Most Lessons to Teach

This is something that I have heard frequently in my life with horses. I have even been known to say it myself to a client who is having a rough day with their horse. In case you ever wondered what exactly that meant, here is my interpretation.

We Aren't Downplaying Your Frustration, We Promise!

If you're in the middle of a tough lesson and you hear the phrase that "difficult horses often have the most lessons to teach," you might just roll your eyes. You may think that we are trying to downplay how frustrating a difficult ride can be. That is not the case at all!

We know what it is like to have a frustrating ride. To try, and try and try, and just not feeling like you can get it right, or like you can't get your body to do what your instructor is telling you. Maybe you just can't get through to your horse for whatever reason. Trust me, we all have those days.

Frustration is a part of life, and it is also a part of riding. It is unavoidable and how we handle it is what makes the difference. We know it is frustrating, we like to think that if we can keep giving you instructions, step by step, that we can keep your mind focused on the task at hand, not leaving time for the emotion of frustration to sneak in.

Sometimes it is inevitable that you will get frustrated, and as instructors, we take our job seriously. We will try our best not to let you get frustrated, and if you do, to help calm you down so your energy doesn't rub off on your already difficult horse.

Difficult horses teach us how to handle our frustration. They teach us to listen to our trainers even when our minds are going round and round in frustrating circles with our horses. As trainers, we try our very best to set things up so you won't get frustrated. If for some reason you do, we will help work you through it. Remember, we can relate to where you are because we have been there too. 

Ride Easy Horses and Your Skills Will Plateau

Riding push button horses are fun. We can just think about ourselves, what we're doing, and easily follow instructions. The problem is, once you gain a basic confidence level and skill set, you need to move on to more challenging horses otherwise your skill level will begin to plateau. You will gain false confidence and not continue to grow your skills.

If your trainer puts you on a more difficult horse, they are giving you a vote of confidence that they are ready and eager for you to move on to the next level in your horsemanship skill set, whatever that may be.

Riding Difficult Horses Teaches Us to Think Outside The Box

Riding more difficult horses makes us think outside the box, be creative, and try different things. Not all horses are the same – some are more sensitive or stubborn than others, meaning your typical training or riding methods might not get the same results.

You will work with your trainer and learn how to come up with different tactics to get the job done, different tools you can use to get your point across and get your horse to understand what you want.

If you never ride a horse that isn't straightforward, you are missing out on an opportunity to build your skill set and learn new things.

Learning to See Each Horse as an Individual

When you ride easy, straightforward horses, in a way, it can be easy to treat them all the same, like robots that have buttons we push and then they respond appropriately.

This is all wrong. Every horse is an individual, just like every person is different. We are all unique. We need to see them as such and help them to thrive. Knowing them as individuals will help us to see their ins and outs and quirks. That is how we realize the many different training methods and exercises that are out there. Not just the methods and tools, but what horses they work best with, and which ones won't respond to a certain thing well at all.

Learning to Trust Your Trainer Even When You Are Scared or Frustrated

Riding a difficult horse means that your trainer has given you the vote of confidence that you can handle this horse. That is a big compliment. You may get scared or frustrated while you are riding it. It is bound to happen when you are riding a horse that you are not used to.

You will bond with your trainer. Learn to have enough respect and trust in them to do what they are saying. Even if it is wrong, or hard, or doesn't make sense to you at the time. They will explain it later. Or, most likely, you will have a lightbulb moment and figure it out yourself!

Learning to Determine the Cause for Inappropriate Behavior

Riding more difficult horses will help you learn how to think and feel through what is going on underneath of you. You will learn that in order to fix the problem, you need to understand the cause.

Are you not communicating to the horse in a way he understands? Is his tack ill-fitting? Is the horse experiencing physical pain in some way? You'll not only learn how to interpret the difference in all of these things but also how to handle them.

These are the sorts of refined skills that you only learn when you experience them first-hand with a horse and learn how to problem solve. Lessons like that—where you figure out why a horse is doing what he is doing and why—are the lessons that stick with you for a lifetime. If you never ride more difficult horses, you miss out on these opportunities.

It Is These Types of Horses That We Really Form Connections and Bonds With

Horses that are difficult may frustrate or even scare us. They require more work, more time, and more lessons to ride successfully. We have to think outside of the box and ask for more help than usual.

Since it takes such a commitment to succeed with them, it's that much more meaningful when we do. When you finally connect and effectively communicate with them, you'll have a much deeper bond than that of the lesson horse that bopped around with you so you could learn to post.

Those horses, of course, also serve an important purpose in getting you hooked on the horse life and giving you the needed confidence to move onto more difficult horses with.

It is the difficult ones though that we really learn to love and improve our skills with. Being able to figure out a difficult horse, even if it is with the help of your trainer, is a great victory.

It is a victory and the beginning of many more rewarding experiences on your horsemanship journey.

Riding Horses Isn't Always Easy

Riding horses isn't always easy, but nothing in life is. Horses are no different, and they're totally worth everything they put us through on our horsemanship journeys.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. MyMickey
    I have had the same horse for ten years. Our skills have developed together and sometimes revolve around his physical needs ( front left navicular, kissing spine, stuff right stifle, etc) as well as my aging body failing me sometimes ( knees, back, ankles ). I also school and ride therapy horses at the center I volunteer for. I have learned so much from all of these experiences. Recently I rode a horse in the mountains in Wales and i was able to correctly determine the amount of contact on the reins as well as how much leg pressure she responded to. I feel very blessed to have these opportunities.
    1. Ellison Hartley
      Ellison Hartley
      Sounds like you have had a lot of great opportunities and took advantage of them to learn from the horses. They are the best teachers after all!

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