My Top 5 Techniques to Keeping Your Equine Athlete from Zoning Out
“How about this mom?” … “Do de da de do” … “I wonder how much hay I’ll get tonight” … “Hey he’s scratching his head on my tree” … “Why are we doing this?” ... “I’m gonna stop now…oh darn guess not...well yes I want to stop, this is boring”
Any of those sound some what familiar? For me those sound a lot like the thoughts of a bored or zoned out equine. It happens all the time while training. I even find myself zoning out from time to time. My horse used to zone out all the time when I first go this. Granted he was very young so I do not blame him for getting side tracked occasionally; but having a equine zone out at each training period does not help progress in your goals one bit.
So how do you keep your equine from getting side tracked or get re-engaged in the activity at hand?
1) Create a variety of training patterns
We get bored when we use the same workout equipment, or take the same route to work. There is no reason to think our equine athletes are not going to get bored with the same training routine. While planning the training for the day, keep in mind to incorporate circles (small, medium and large sized ones), figure eights (large flowing ones where you can keep a proper frame), add in cones to go around, or barrels to circle. You can create a mini trail obstacle course. The idea here is to not do the same type of ground work and patterns day in and day out. Keep yourself guessing and keep your equine guessing.
2) Change up your schedule
Do you always do ground work on mondays? Or go trail riding on sundays? Well stop! Everyday should be different and every week should be different. I, honestly, do not plan out my rides specifically. I create goals for the week. Then each day as I get to the barn and prepare my horse I ask myself what today "feels" like. Somedays I have more energy and mental stamina to handle a harder training session. Somedays my horse feels lazy or ornery. Based on what the day "feels" like is what I base my training off of. For instance I went to the barn ready to ride bareback and work hard on position and frame for my horse; but when I arrived it felt more like a ground work and bonding kind of day. So always change it up, do not fall into a routine, listen to how the day "feels" and plan from there.
3) Utilize tools for training
Now, i don't mean whips, crops and spurs. I am actually not a huge fan of how most people utilize these pieces of equipment anyways. So, what do I mean? I am referring to ground poles, jumps, cavalettis, hills, ponds… When you are exercising you get bored using the same equipment in the same facility you would get bored as well so do not do this to your horses. I never use the same tools each time. I do however use similar combinations; so I will incorporate ground poles with jumps, ground poles and regular poles. Since, I train for a variety of disciplines I incorporate a variety of tools/obstacles and you should too. This mindset will assist in a more well rounded equine not only mentally but physically as well.
4) Keep yourself from zoning out
Keeping yourself from zoning out can be the easiest way to help your equine from zoning out. When you as the rider start to let the your mind wander you give the freedom for your equine to allow their mind wander as well. This instance just starts a for a trickle effect that can cascade into other facets of your riding and partnership.
So how to prevent this, what I do is focus really hard on the particular pattern I am doing. I talk myself through each step. This keeps my mind in the moment. I will also do the same thing with my position. I kinda run through the ‘head shoulders knees and toes’ song (but modified for a riders position); this also keeps your mind focused on the task at hand.
Nutrition is always the top tip in every aspect of life. If the nutrition for you or your equine is not up to par the performance will not be up to par. Make sure your equine is fully hydrated and keep water buckets near by while training. Keep them at an ideal weight. Just like you if they are overweight it can make them sluggish; a low weight will leave them with not enough energy to get through the training. Make sure to supply lots of water, feed a well rounded and complete feed. Always feed more high quality hay over grain.
So next time you are headed to the barn for some training, I hope you keep these 5 simple tips in mind to keep yourself and your equine focused on the task at hand.
Courtney loves God, nature, horses, homemaking, essential oils, herbs & CrossFit, Yoga, BJJ, Natural horsemanship. Learn more about the author in her Bio section.
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