We've made it to day three, and hopefully, your riding week is going well so far. I hope my suggestions are helping to keep you and your mount on track. It's on to day 3 we go!
The Warm Up
After the first two days, you should have the warm-up part down to a science. So now that you've got the basic stuff down, set a goal of getting your horse focused and giving you the opportunity to gauge how your horse is feeling that day. Is he lazy? Spooky? Relaxed? This is your chance to see whether you are sitting on a willing work partner or not. It is also your chance to get his head in the game if necessary.
While you are warming up, this is also a time to work on yourself. It should be pretty easy to combine focusing on yourself and an effective warm up. Do some exercises for you to focus on yourself as a rider. Whatever riding skill you are trying to perfect, you should be able to come up with an exercise to work on it. If you need suggestions, ask your trainer or instructor.
It's multitasking, and horseback riding and training is the ultimate test of one's ability to stay relaxed while multitasking and trying to balance on top a thousand-pound animal! You'll get it.
Get to Work
Once you have done your warm up, your horse should be responsive and focused. Now you should be ready to get on to the important part of the ride, which is probably getting back to that exercise you were working on yesterday. Remember, the exercise you chose for yesterday was one that is a stepping stone toward the main goal you are working on.
Hopefully, you can pick up where you left off. Reintroduce yesterday's exercise and determine whether or not your horse picked it up quickly. If so, think about what the next step should be to accomplish your goal. What is the next skill you need to perfect to get there? Find an exercise that helps work on the skills for you to take the next step.
The easiest way to come up with exercises is to think through the specific steps you have to take to ask your horse to do the skill. Keep it simple. Pick just one step and work on that until it clicks. Then, come up with an exercise to work on the next step. Eventually, you will have broken down the skill into individual exercises to make it easy for your horse to progressively learn the new skill one step at a time.
Make sure that you and your horse are clicking and speaking the same language. This is how you will succeed in learning new skills and teaching your horse new things. Remember, if you or your horse gets frustrated, just go back to the exercise before this one. It's important to always know what you and your horse are good at. This way, if you get stuck and realize you aren't speaking the same language, you can go back and reestablish the communication. And you can end on a good note.
If You Don't Feel That You Mastered Yesterday's Exercise...
It's no big deal. If that is the case, just keep working on yesterday's exercise. If you can't seem to get through to your horse, break it down into a smaller step. Then once he gets the smaller part of the exercise, try adding it back in again. Stepping back and mastering a smaller skill before moving onto a bigger skill will always benefit you. Anything to keep horse and rider relaxed and speaking the same language is a good thing!
It's no rush. Rushing through things with horses doesn't work. To be successful, they need to understand our cues. We need to take the time to make sure that they are putting two and two together. If it takes an extra day or two, so be it.
When You Are Untacking
Decide whether or not you mastered what you were working on today. Try and figure out what part of the skill your horse isn't getting so you can try to figure out the best way to help them understand. And again, don't be afraid to ask someone for a suggestion if you need one.
Another Quick Thought on Your Day 3 Ride
If you think you mastered the exercise you were working on, and if you want to reinforce it before moving on to the next exercise, that isn't a bad idea. Again, it depends on what it is you are working on. Sometimes you can incorporate ground poles or simply do the exercise at different gaits. You can also do a change of location. Try the exercise out in a big field instead of your normal riding area. Nothing tests your horses understanding like asking him to perform a new skill in a new place! A change of scenery is also always good for the mental state of horse and rider.
Stay tuned for day 4.