I’ve never understood how people or horses can stand doing the same ole repetitive riding routine day in and day out. Doesn’t riding around and around in the same ole ring get boring? I’ll admit, I too used to be guilty of this, but that’s before I realized that there is a wide world of riding opportunities and challenges out there to enjoy and take advantage of outside the realm of “the riding ring!”
I guess for some, it’s easy to fall into the comfort zone rut of ring riding, but a well-rounded horse and rider, should be able to handle a variety of riding environments. I’ve seen fantastic “show hunters” perform on the buckle in a ring, yet “fall to pieces” when presented with the challenge of working in a wide open field alone or with others. I’ve witnessed great hackers, crumble when presented the challenge of true collection and hind quarter engagement in a dressage ring. So, my fellow equestrians, have you ever caught yourself asking the following while enjoying a leisurely ride?
“Uh oh, what’s gonna happen when that tractor passes?”
“Please tell me that is NOT a dog running in the distance?”
“Oh my god, Is that a miniature horse pulling a noisy cart?”
Okay, what this all translates to, is that some of us riders like to take the easy way out. We like to stick with what we are comfortable doing and not risk “rocking the boat” or more specifically “hitting the dirt!” What we are guilty of doing is creating dumb horses... dumb horses and dumber riders! We don’t challenge our minds or our horses minds because we stick to the same ole easy routine…we don’t ask our horses to think!
- Mind #1=the everyday, ho hum routine “mindless mind.” (what is familiar)
- Mind #2=the “Oh no, what is that? It’s time to run!” mind (the Flight/Prey instinct.)
The flight instinct is the predominant natural horse instinct. So the trick to a good well-rounded horse is to get them to overcome this flight instinct and use their “thinking mind.” Using the thinking side of the brain is not a natural response, but it’s something a horse can develop and enhance. Horses develop this side of their brain by being challenged with new stimuli and tasks. Why not take your hunter out on trail rides? Laugh at those “weenies” who snub their noses at trail riding as being “not real work” They are usually the one's most in need of a good trail ride; bock, bock BOOOOCKKK! Tell em’ your eating chicken for dinner and go enjoy yourself and your horse!
Here’s some more ideas for “different” activities to do with your horse: why not jump on bareback, throw on a saddle of a different discipline, take your horse for a walk, walk through a trail in the woods, walk out in an open field, stand at the end of a pond, walk in a pond, go for a swim in the pond (take off that martingale), ride in a different arena, trailer to a new place to ride…. The possibilities are endless! The more types of environments you expose yourself and your horse to, the better trained you both will be. And what this means, is more opportunities for FUN! Now, it’s time to practice what I preach with my two year old warmblood filly “Hotty.” She’s convinced wheelbarrows are “scary monsters” out to get her. Guess where she’ll be eating dinner this evening? Better to desensitize her now, rather than later when she’s grown into a 17 hand giant and I’m sitting on her back!