Have you made your New Year's Resolutions for 2012? Have you got great plans for your horse? Perhaps you’ve decided to make better use of your school? Before you get too carried away with New Year enthusiasm - stop! Instead of thinking about what you want to achieve spend a bit of time thinking about how you’re going to achieve it.
So many riders moan that schooling is boring. It is if you don’t know what you want to do! There’s no point deciding to school your horse three nights a week if you’re going to spend the whole time trotting aimlessly round in circles.
A huge part of schooling is down to your attitude. Treat it as something interesting and your horse will do the same. Allow him to slop into the school on the buckle whilst you yawn and moan about it and how do you expect him to react?
If you hacked out every day would you expect your horse to be bored? It’s doubtful. If he gets strong on a hack do you put it down to excitement? BUT when he does exactly the same thing in the school do you say he’s bored?
The school is just another place to ride. OK it’s smaller and the view isn’t as good but it shouldn’t be any less interesting. Vary each session and you’ll keep your horse’s mind occupied. Fill it full of your ideas and stop him filling it with ideas of his own!
Your horse’s job is to do as you ask. Your job is to make life interesting enough for him to want to. Rather than planning to do something every day for a week try working to a rota. Don’t think in terms of Tuesdays – Wednesdays – Thursdays. Think in terms of Sessions 1, 2 and 3 which you repeat and repeat.
Session 1 – use this to improve a problem or teach your horse something new. Work out in advance what your subject is and how you’re going to tackle it. Use the search box on this blog (top right) to find an exercise to work with.
It’s important to realise that ‘on the bit’ is an end product of schooling NOT an exercise to work on. Think of your horse as a jigsaw – the finished picture can only be seen if you put all the pieces together in the right order. Work on something that will improve his way of going and he’ll work onto the bit naturally. Check out this page full of links - http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/p/hocks-and-energy.html
It’s important to allow enough time for mistakes. This is a session you can’t do in a hurry. If you’re short of time give it a miss – go straight to Session 2. Nobody learns anything under pressure.
Session 2 - do something completely different so your horse doesn’t feel that he’s always under pressure when you take him in the school. Try lunging, pole work, grid work or even circuit training (http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-you-know-you-should.html ) so he has to use different muscles and think in a different way. A change really is as good as a rest.
Remember whatever you do should be constructive. Stay focused on your horse’s balance and rhythm whether you’re cantering circuits of the school or lunging. Things shouldn’t change because you’ve put a few poles down either. Stay calm and relaxed – your approach will always affect his.
Session 3 - do something your horse finds easy. It’s a confidence boost for him. This session is all about you. Your position affects everything he does. The better your position the more beneficial your schooling will be. If he enjoys walk to canter transitions then ride some figures of eight with transitions at X. If trot is his best pace then try riding 10m circles at every point in the school. While he’s busy feeling clever you can focus on your position. Check out - http://schoolyourhorse.blogspot.com/2011/10/pull-up-to-ride-forward.html
This rota of sessions works well whether you ride three times a week or three times a month. It’s a structure which is easy to stick to unlike some New Year’s Resolutions that start off with good intentions but soon fade.
Whatever you do in 2012 make sure you enjoy it. This is your hobby and it’s meant to be fun. Be positive - ride forward and never pull yourself or your horse back.
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.