The following are the “6 Rules of Horsemanship” I teach my students. Incorporating these six deceptively simple rules in your everyday horsemanship will prove to maximize the time you spend with your horse, increase your rate of progression, and eliminate much of the frustration you may experience in training your horse.
RULE NUMBER 1) THINK
We tend to either think too little, or think too much. Thinking about the past will limit you, thinking about the future will frustrate you, but thinking in the moment will help you to be present with your horse right there where he needs you. And be sure that you’re thinking about the right things; when you’re with your horse, you need to be thinking about the task at hand, not about tomorrow’s dinner plans or some argument on social media.
RULE NUMBER 2) PLAN
Make a plan for what you’re doing both in the immediate moment as well as the eventual future. For instance, do not ask your horse to move before making a plan of WHERE you want them to move. Nothing should be by accident, everything with intention.
RULE NUMBER 3) FOCUS
Focus is about more than just LOOKING where you’re going, it’s also about FEELING what’s going on underneath you. You should feel your horse get ready to do the right thing with you. You should also feel if your horse is shaping up to do the wrong thing. Both of these cases require you to focus.
RULE NUMBER 4) ADJUST
Perhaps your horse wasn’t understanding where you wanted him to go or what you wanted him to do; then you need to ADJUST your approach to help him. Don’t be so set on your plan that you leave your horse behind. Always be willing to adjust, if necessary, to help your horse along in the process. Perhaps that means changing the entire plan, or perhaps just that moment to help your horse get back on track.
RULE NUMBER 5) BREATHE
Holding your breath is natural when you focus but it tends to cause tension in your body. Horses pick up on this tension and it will impede the communication by causing a brace or a delay which is detrimental whether we are riding or handling our horses from the ground.
RULE NUMBER 6) SMILE
Smiling on the outside increases your face value. Smiling on the inside means that you are focusing on the positive things that are happening and looking for the progress that you are making with your horse rather than just focusing on how far you have to go to reach your goals. Reward the positive and ignore the mistakes – pretty soon the horse will understand where the reward is coming from and the positive will outshine the negative.
So there you have it. 1) THINK 2) PLAN 3) FOCUS 4) ADJUST 5) BREATHE 6) SMILE!
Following these 6 rules will improve your training plans, increase your progress, and enhance your horsemanship.