Confidence is Key
Confidence is an intangible factor that effects our riding more than we can begin to imagine. It flows down from our body’s and into our horses. This is why it’s so important to build a good relationship and foundation with your horse. One that’s built on trust and consistency. My friend V has been kind enough to let me work with her wonderful horse Chance. He is a talented Oldenburg gelding who has all the tools to be a great horse, but his spookyness and insecurities can and tend to get the better of him.
Building Chance’s confidence has been a fun learning experience for me these past two weeks. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re building your horse’s confidence.
1. Take your time.
If you have a nervous or spooky horse don’t rush into anything. Take a second to evaluate exactly where you guys are and then reassess what you should do to reach your goals. For Chance my main goal has been to make him more trust worthy on the ground and in the saddle. To do this I’ve been round penning him and reinforcing the great ground work foundation he already has. By being paitent and doing these small steps I’ve already seen a big difference. Now Chance calmly trots around the arena without incident and doesn’t hold his breath or any tension in his mouth. Deep sighs, chewing and licking lips are a plenty and I love it!
2. Reward any progress or attempt at progress.
The thing you have to keep in mind is that when your horse gets scared, no matter how illogical it is, they are truly afraid. Be a little sympathetic and treat them as you would a person. Be comforting, give them a second to catch their breath, and then get back to work. You want to be an encouraging and positive force in your horse’s training. So when you ask them to do something make sure that you’re rewarding them if they actually do it, or even if they attempt it. Keeping this positive approach will go a long way and help in building up your horses confidence and maintaining a great working relationship with them.
3. Give your horse a job.
Think about this concept as it applies to you. If you have a job or task don’t you focus on what’s in front of you? Develop a plan as you work with your horse. Give them a specific task and then work on it until you make the progress that you wanted. This will take your horse’s mind off of any off the scary ghosts that might be lurking in any mysterious places around the arena. Giving your horse a job also gives you an opportunity to work through any emotions that your horse might go through as well. Keeping them working as they get excited, nervous, or stressed is a great way to help focus them through their anxiety. And when they are focused reward them! Then move onto the next exercise or activity you have in mind.
I’ve seen a HUGE difference in the kind of horse that Chance is by implementing these concepts. He’s more reliable in the arena and seems generally more content with his work than before. Today V was able to hop on and ride him around without incident. He went over the small jump she set up without problems and stayed relaxed the entire time. Watching them float around the arena together was such a pleasure and I’m so very proud of both of them. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year brings to this amazing duo!