Timing is Everything

I woke up this morning with the thought on my mind that timing is everything.

I am not sure why, but the urge was there to write this article.


Timing is everything ...

It made me think of the expectations we have of our horses and how many riders get horse training and the needing for self-gratification mixed up.

How often do we say, “This was a terrible transition and we need to do this again until we feel that we have achieved a good result”. The fact that we have done five good transitions before and simply got greedy and missed the opportunity to ‘finish on a good one’ is forgotten and so the pressure is on the horse to produce yet another transition.

The term ‘horse training’ is often used too loosely and this is the point I want to make. Let's look at the reality and ask ourselves “How many of us truly training horses and how many of us are still learning how to ride.”

A horse trainer is someone who listens to the horse

OK, what does that mean exactly.....?

  • As a trainer, we need to be the ones who make the horse feel confident and safe not gaining confidence from our horse.
  • A trainer is forgiving and understands how much time it takes to learn and to develop new skills.
  • The trainer’s most important feedback comes from the student, not the spectator.

Let's face it, most riders feel great after they have had a good ride, and they feel disappointed when the horse didn’t go so well.

 We go to competitions to have a good result.

  • The aim is to win,
  • To have improved on the last competition score or;
  • To gradually move up through the grades.                                             

Riders look for acknowledgements from outsiders, for example, coaches, judges, and friends, to confirm that they are doing a good job. That often puts pressure on the horse to perform in order to get positive feedback.

We cannot expect a horse that is still in training to perform to a level that makes us, the rider, feel good.

The trained horse can make the rider feel good because it can compensate for the rider's mistakes where the young and untrained horse needs the rider's help and patience to learn and develop.

Think of it this way and it might make it a bit clearer:

Imagine you are going to your Pilates or gym session tomorrow, and your trainer asks you to do planks or sit-ups. Then after already doing three sets of 1 min planks or 30 sit-ups, the trainer says “that last one was terrible and not really good enough you need to do it again and again so we can finish on a good note’. After struggling and struggling you finally produce something that is just acceptable and you hear him say “yes that was better I can let you stop now”.

At the end of the class, you hear your trainer talk to another trainer and your trainer says “I am getting better and better results with this group. They are not perfect yet but I am getting better all the time, I just need them to step up a bit more”.

Next session, your trainer says “I have booked you into a competition next week. I know our results are not perfect yet, but I just want to take you out to see how we perform against others. It will be fun. I am going to see my friends and there is a judge who hopefully is going to see how much progress I have made in my training with you, and you need to make sure that you are on your best behaviour because I don’t want to be judged badly or seen as not being good enough”.

The following week comes and you get an outfit that matches your trainer’s outfit and then off you all go in the minibus, two hours to the competition. The fact that you had planned a quiet weekend at home with your family doesn’t seem to matter.

On arrival, the trainer has three coffees, a sip of the funny smelling-bottle to calm his nerves and off you all go to perform the hopefully perfect plank, the sit-ups and all the other movements that you have been ‘trained’ to do and at the end, if you were good enough, your trainer receives a ribbon and goes celebrating with his trainer friends while you all sit in the minibus waiting to finally be taken home again.

Do you get my drift....?

Training your horses can only happen when you are not emotionally involved in the outcome.

Training happens when you are purely focused on the horse, knowing when to ask and when to step back and have a break. Training is not about the positive feedback you receive from others instead it is about the positive feedback you receive from your horse.

Training improves when our own ego is set aside and we don’t look for external validation anymore. When the feedback from the horse becomes more important than the acknowledgement from the judge, when we can say no to others in order to say yes to the horse then we have become a trainer and are no longer a rider.

Something to ponder .....

Happy riding everyone,

Tanja x

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