Go After the Horse’s Trust

How much does your horse trust you? No, really– how much?

For instance, can you ride walk/trot/canter/half-passes and piaffe over a tarp? What about next to construction? Could you do that bareback in a halter?

No? Why not?

I recently had the opportunity to help a timid horse find an inch more confidence in himself using trot poles. Taking him through the process of introducing him to the poles and going over them reminded me of my days in Pony Club.

Stay with me here.

We are proud that our training methods are the art of training the horse for war. Yet, over the years, it seems that we became stuck on the art and forgot about the war part. Sure, we may still ride many of the maneuvers, but we forgot about the courage, inner strength, and trust in the rider required by the horse.

Yet, my friends still eventing seem to have kept the war part. We ask for obedience, they ask for trust.

A particular childhood friend has a uniquely challenging horse. She describes his temperament in a wide array of colorful adjectives, but has done a remarkable job with him. One of the last times I was over to her house, I watched her jump him bareback with a piece of twine around his neck over a single upright oil drum in the middle of the area. Not oil drum with poles, or any sort of wing– just the solitary oil drum.

There are not many dressage riders that I know of who have that kind of partnership with their horse. I’m sorry to say, but birds in the bushes, flower pots, new arenas, and the occasional puddle is the extent to which I push my horse to trust in me.

In an earlier post, I discussed actively testing the horse’s responsiveness, suppleness and strength during your ride, but I neglected to discuss proactively pushing psychological boundaries during your ride. But pushing these psychological boundaries is equally as important as the physical ones. Let’s face it– unfamiliar surroundings or things is the main reason we have tension problems during our tests at shows. How much of that tension could be alleviated if our horses trusted us more? How much could be eliminated if they were more tuned into us than the puddle or the boogeyman lurking at C?

It is art for war, after all.

I challenge us all to do one thing this week that will push your horse’s trust in you.