I write this post today, not so that we look at it as a must have before we go. But as a way to evaluate what needs improvement or what we may need to be aware of to stay safe. Also as a motivation for improvement.
There is always room for improvement. And something can always go sour. Many times you can tell if you are going to have problems right when you go get your horse to start your session. Sometimes a Pre-ride check will tell me not to ride, but to work on other things instead. This is usually on green horses or problem horses that have just come in for training. After the first 8 hrs or so, I use the Pre-ride to see what I should be focusing my attention on during our time together.
Many of us don't stay in a constant state of evaluation. I personally think it is very important. Being as changing behavior is relatively easy, (most of the time) why would you not evaluate what you have so you can make an improvement. Simple improvements in one area make huge differences in many other areas. To me, I feel I owe it to the horse. They are my responsibility. I need to be the leader they deserve.
For me, my evaluations start as soon as the horse comes into view or hearing distance. I am looking to know what their emotional state is. I am also looking to see if they are interested in me or trying to avoid me. Ideally I strive to have a horse calm but happy to see me. When they do see me I would like them to respectfully come to me and if I present a halter to them, they lower their head and put their nose into the nose band quietly for me. But I am happy to accept a horse that will patiently wait for me as long as they are paying attention to me as I approach and not looking for an escape root. I know what is possible to get without to much trouble so at every session I take mental notes of what can be improved on. Every session gets better and you would be amazed what 15 minutes a day will bring after a week.
Once I have my horse and we are going to get ready for our ride, I pay close attention to everything along the way.
Is he nervous or calm?
Is he lagging behind or hurrying ahead?
Is he crowding me or trying to stay or get away?
There are a few more examples I could give but the point I'm trying to make is, "If it isn't what you would like it to be, then make a change so that eventually it will be." It doesn't have to happen all at once, but you would be amazed at how just knowing what you want can make a difference without even doing anything else. Your thoughts alone bring mental energy. That all by itself can make changes in you, that will also make changes in the horse.
As I mentioned, I am always evaluating. So when I am grooming and tacking I am looking for improvement there as well. I expect a horse to stand quietly and patiently for the process. If they don't then I know I need to work on something. I know that without to much trouble at all, you can have a horse stand quietly for all this. I often bring my stuff into my herd and do it all with them loose right there. Having them coming to me, listening to my body language to position themselves where I want them, and they stand and wait for me to do what I need to do.
Again when its time to get on I evaluate how they feel about what we are about to do.
Will he swing over to pick me up or is he trying to get away or stall?
Does he stand still and wait once I am on or start to leave in a hurry?
How well is he listening to my seat aids?
How well is he listening to my leg aids?
How well is he listening to my rein aids?
All this is important because if we need 1 pound of pressure to get a response in a calm environment, we may need 3 pounds in a slightly stressful environment. Even more in an extremely stressful one. So if we can strive to get results with just ounces of pressure in a calm place, then you also have better results when they are stressed. I purposely put the seat, leg and rein aids in that order. I did so because if you can get results with your seat, then you may not have to use your leg or rein. If you do, it will be just to help them find your feel.
I often ride bareback and bridle less on Shea and Stoney. Most of the time I don't even need to use my legs. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I may need to touch or tap the side of their neck as well. If it happens that I do need more than my seat and energy, I know I need to work on that. Sometimes fixing this takes me back to when I go out and get them. That part and all other parts in between needs to be solid if bareback and bridle less is going to work at all. never mind on seat and energy alone.
So keep a check list even it is just mental notes. Try to have an end result you would like and wash the dirty stuff till it shines. You can't make improvements without trying. Wishing won't make it happen. You have to work at it. Even a little a day makes a big difference in week, a huge difference in a month, and an unimaginable difference in a year. If you strive to make each session better than the last and to try to end better than you started, then you will improve. It is as simple as that.
Thanks for reading along, and if you have any questions on any of this, feel free to contact us any way you would like. In the comments here or on the Blog sight, email, messaging, call or text. We would be glad to answer them for you.