Teddie and foal

Life’s not all sunshine and roses

Life as well as training is not always sunshine and roses.

You might be thinking, “Yea, I already know that.” And I’m sure you do. But, do you put that into practice with your horse? Do you get frustrated? Do you just walk away sometimes stuck as to what to do next? Do you lose your confidence sometimes?

In my many years as a student with horses and as a horse trainer there is one constant…

“There are good days and there are bad days”

And just as in life, when you have a bad day, you figure out what’s wrong and then you either fix the problem or find a solution around it and you move on. Life doesn’t stop just because you have a bad day.

Do you do the same when it comes to working with your horses?

Jazz and Apollo

Bad days will always happen in life and in training horses. You have to expect these and try not to get discouraged. Sometimes that is easier said than done. I tell my students, and myself, to look at the overall progress of what happened this week or this month, not just “today”.

Plus, sometimes you might think it was a bad day, but in reality, you missed the positive things that happened, or you missed the lesson you or your horse learned without knowing it.

For example:

One of my students, who has an extremely tough, strong-willed, but intelligent horse came to me with the following issues – her horse ignored her, didn’t really care much unless she had food and then she was very pushy about her food, was nippy, aggressive, demanding, wouldn’t listen, when pushed would push back harder and fight, was inconsistent, and a bit dangerous.

This student chose to do my personal coaching program as she wanted to have my full attention to help her find a way to resolve these issues. It was the best choice for her as she had tried so many other training systems that didn’t give her what she needed. They all failed her because they had a “glass ceiling”.

When something happened that didn’t fit the mold of the training system she was in, there was no one to talk to about it and no one to give her a personal solution that fit her and her horse specifically. Some of them even told her that it was her fault and she needed to figure it out on her own.

Really?!

This student and I chat almost every day, including weekends, via emails and personal texts, and we have a long talk every week on the phone together. Plus, she sends me videos almost daily of what’s going on and what she and her horse are doing.

I love this because it’s so helpful. I also really admire her commitment to reaching her dream goals with her horse. I promised her that as long as she doesn’t quit, neither will I, and we are in this together.

Well, she and her horse have come a long way from where they started, and I’ve been delighted with her progress and her “Hutzpah”. Her determination has inspired me further to make sure she reaches her dreams, even if it means flying out to work with her personally.

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Even though she and her horse have made great strides, there’s always a “bad day”. That day showed up this week and she was really disappointed. She said that her horse didn’t do anything right and she just grazed. She was disappointed because she wasn’t able to do the lesson. Granted, it was the first time she had even tried this lesson and it was a hard one.

Luckily, she had taken a video of trying to do this lesson. I love to watch my student’s videos. It helps so much to see them and their horse in action because I can see what’s really going on. And sometimes I can see things they can’t. Partly because of my experiences, but also because their mind is working on “learning the dance” and my mind is looking at the “big picture”.

What I saw in this video was a horse that was intently listening to her body language, responding immediately to her cues, and being very patient and well mannered. This was now a horse that was having fun, was truly connected to her, and one that wanted to please, and was willing to do whatever she wanted.

It was just a matter of the two of them learning how to accomplish this particular lesson because it was new to both of them. But the energy, the trust, the willingness, and the two-way conversation was all there and was all good.

Even though this particular lesson didn’t work the first time they tried it didn’t mean that it wasn’t ever going to work, that it couldn’t be adjusted, or that it was too difficult for her or her horse.

We talked about it, I showed her all the good spots in the video that showed how much they’ve accomplished together, and we adjusted her lesson for her horse’s particular issues. And guess what? It worked. The second time she tried it, it was much better. And I’m sure the next time she does it, they will be right on!

Her exact words after I told her what I saw in the video, pointed out the exact spots that they happened, and asked her to review the video again while going over my notes were –

“I am speechless! You saw all that!!! I did not have a clue of everything that was going on.”

So, when you have a bad day… take a break, pause, and look at it in a different way. What did you learn? What may have happened? Look at it from your horse’s perspective. Be positive and look at the “big picture”.

The first lesson here is to realize that no matter what Approach, Method, or System you are learning, or training with, it won’t always work 100% of the time. That’s because you and your horse are different from 50 million other people, and your situation is different, and the combination of the two of you makes it even more complex.

All that is a lot for one type of training to take into account. But just because you have a bad day doesn’t mean that the system doesn’t work, or you’re not cut out for horses, or your horse is stupid. You’d be surprised how many times I hear all of those excuses.

The best thing to do when something glitches in your training is to stop, pause, and re-evaluate.

Ask yourself what happened, look at what your horse is doing, or just did, ask your trainer what they think, and then work together to try to adjust your lesson or training to accommodate your particular situation.

If you are still stuck… take a video of what’s going on and watch it to see if you can see something you couldn’t at the time you took it. I think you’d be amazed to see what’s really going on.

It could be a fear memory, it could be your body language or your energy, it could just be a bad day for your horse. Whatever it is or was, there is a solution.

In short:

  1. Understand there will always be bad days, but it’s how you look at them that counts. Expect them and know what to do when they show up.
  2. Look at a bad day as a lesson and try to come up with something positive from the day. Stop, pause, re-evaluate, and adjust.
  3. Sometimes you need to take a step back to see what’s really going on. Understand that sometimes you get bogged down in the details and you miss the big picture.
  4. Don’t give up! Figure out a solution or a way around the issue and move forward.

You can do this!

The more you do these things, the fewer bad days you’ll have. And when you have them, the quicker you will be able to get through them and move forward, learn, and grow.

Life isn’t all sunshine and roses, and quite frankly, it shouldn’t be! How boring would that be?

And how could we learn and grow if everything always went as planned? It would almost be like standing still. You wouldn’t question things, you wouldn’t think about solutions, and you wouldn’t move forward developing into the amazing human being you were meant to become.

Look forward to the ups AND the downs. Without the downs, we wouldn’t appreciate the ups as much. Without the downs, we wouldn’t have those moments where we pause and reflect and learn. Life and training are all about the BALANCE between the ups and the downs. Enjoy the process.

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