Has your horse become bored with the latest training session? Do they stand stock still when you want them to move, or do they look away with their attention somewhere else?
Have you done anything FUN with your horse lately? I realize it's wintertime and that means in many parts of the country deep snow and deep freeze. No one, including your horse wants to get out in it and train or exercise. We want to curl up with a blanket & some hot chocolate or hibernate until spring time.
Movement is crucial especially in winter not just for your horse, but for you too!
Teaching your horse anything takes time. Factors include but are not limited to: your time, your patience, your horse's attention span and how quickly they learn something. One way to make a lesson stick is: repetition in short bursts of about 15-20 minutes, rest, relax, recuperate and repeat. Horses learn when pressure is released. If you always keep pressure "On" they become confused, dull and lose interest. If you don't use enough pressure, they stand stock still or may become confused. If you use too much pressure, they move on without having their attention on you and don't know when to stop to "get" the lesson.
One thing about lessons: You yourself have to learn when, how much, when to stop, when to continue and you have to figure out when enough is enough. A lesson plan is a good idea to start with. What is it you want to teach your horse? What steps do you need to take to achieve the overall goal? How are you going to break down that lesson into smaller steps to make it easier for your horse to "get it"?
If you've owned your horse for any length of time, then you should know your horse. What they tolerate, what their temperament is, how long you can keep their attention, how willing they are to learn, how easily they learn, etc.
You should also note here: There are NO shortcuts in training. Nor are there any quick fixes to problems. You can't take shortcuts or get in a hurry when training your horse because inevitably there will be holes in your lessons and you may end up teaching your horse something you don't really want it to learn.
You want a solid foundation to build on, not windows. Start from the ground and work your way up. Ground basics: lead, whoa, space management, pick up feet, back up, stand still. To make haltering or bridling easier you may want to teach your horse to drop its head, or tip its nose into the halter. To help your farrier you may want to teach your horse to pick up its feet with a cue or word.
No matter what it is, break down the steps and only stop on a good note. You don't have to complete the lesson in one day. Break it up into several days. Always start with a warm up by walking out down the road and back or lunge for a few moments. If you do the same routine day after day, change it up and do something a little different. This will cause 2 things to happen: Your horse will not learn to anticipate what's next and you will grab your horse's attention.
A horse that anticipates can be frustrating to teach. They don't trust you, which means you are not in control of the entire horse (brain and feet). You have to un-learn the anticipation before you can move on to anything else. You want your horse to wait or ask for what's coming next. It shows you that your horse is paying attention and is not bored.
If you always "work" in an arena or round pen, change it up and play or teach something different. Short steps into a new trick will be a welcome change. Take your "work" outside the fences. Go for a trail ride for a change. If you always go down the same trail, try to take a different route. The scenery will "wake up" that bored horse. They need their senses fed by outside things. I mean you wouldn't want to stay in the house constantly doing house work or homework would you? Of course not. Getting outside the fence will do you both good. Nothing says "I'm paying attention" like new scenery.
Moving about in the wintertime is not only good for you and your horse's senses, it's good for overall health. Movement aids in digestion, removes excess energy, circulates blood flow to the legs and hooves. A horse that is stalled for most of the day or doesn't move around much is more prone to colic and boredom and a slew of other issues like cribbing.
Not every day will be a "good day" for your horse to learn either. They have "off" days just like we do. Cut them some slack. I'm not saying don't ride or try to teach them something. What I'm saying is, they may not be as into it that day and if you go easy on them, they'll be thankful for it. If you get into your lesson and your horse is just not even trying, make sure there isn't a problem somewhere. Pain causes off days too. Brush them down and pick their feet. Is your horse touchy somewhere? Stiff in leg movement? If you find anything that's not right, consult your vet before moving on to lessons.
Spend some quiet time with them. Go out to the barn, pull up a hay bale and sit a spell. Take them out to an open paddock and let them roam around while you just be with them. Get an oversize beach ball or Jolly ball and put it in the paddock with them. Let them play with it, or teach them to play with it. Tie up an empty grain or feed bag and teach them to play with it. There are many things you can use as "toys" for them that are inexpensive and will be a welcome change also. Just please make sure they are safe! Don't use anything they can get a hoof caught in or can become entangled in their legs to trip them up.
Now go have some fun! :D
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