We are delighted to host Sally Cousins as our guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.
Last week I wrote about rider confidence, and this week I’m turning to the confidence of the horse. Our horse’s confidence is directly related to how confident we feel and vice versa. They are very closely related. Depending on the horse, it can take years to build up confidence, but only one or two bad experiences to undo it.
We need to carefully build our horse’s confidence. If the horse is not having a good day, don’t introduce something new. Usually going slower in your training will end up being more successful in the end because you will not have to go back and fix problems. The more good experiences your horse has, the bigger the “bank” you have to draw on.
Horses learn at different rates. One horse might be able to quickly learn and seems very brave initially. With this type of horse, we need to be very aware that their confidence may be beyond their education, and they may not have the depth of training to overcome a bad experience. Some horses learn a bit slower, but this doesn’t mean they will not learn to be brave. We need to take more time and teach them to trust that they are capable of doing what we are asking of them.
The age of a horse does not necessarily influence how fast it learns. We need to take each horse as an individual and tailor their training to them. As a guideline, I think of doing a level a year. This gives the horse a great base. There are horses that are very talented that moving a bit quicker will work, but at some point, the horse will need to stay at a level for an extended period of time to solidify their confidence in their work.
Many riders say to me, “I don’t want to ruin my horse.” I respect riders who say this and think this can be our goal. We will make mistakes, but horses are wonderfully forgiving creatures, and if our horse trusts us and has a solid base of training, they will continue to improve.