My good friend Dom Schramm always says, “Wet saddle cloths make good horses.” It’s a saying we grow up in Queensland (Australia) hearing from the time we start riding.
I’m not sure of its origins but I could well imagine some old stockman announcing it as he got off an especially wild brumby! As a kid I didn’t understand what it meant, why would I want a wet saddle cloth on my horse? Doesn’t Pony Club specifically advise against putting wet tack on a horse?
The older I got, and more horses I rode, I started to get an understanding of what those wise old stockmen were talking about. A lot of behavioural problems in horses come from a lack of work or education. Generally speaking, the more time you spend in the saddle with your horse actually training, the better he’ll go and become more educated.
The concept may sound obvious but you would be surprised just how many people are conservative in this area. I’m not talking about getting on your horse and working him to within an inch of death, I’m talking about consistent, intelligent, hard work.
The good news for the average amateur is that your relationship with your horse is just like your relationship with a human being. That is you don’t have to be perfect in your delivery, you just give it a try!
For example, if you are struggling to the get the correct lead with your horse don’t just give up and put him away: try everything you’ve learnt how to do, be bountiful in your praise when your horse gets it correct and understand that he is learning that whatever signal you give him is the correct signal to canter.
If your horse is naughty try working him for 15 minutes longer, and try more difficult exercises. A lot of naughty horses are in fact merely very intelligent and under worked/under stimulated. This is particularly true of the Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred infused breeds.
I guess what I am trying to say is sometimes a little extra physical perseverance in developing your riding relationship with your horse can go a long way!