Stick to the Steps

When your horse loses focus in the show pen, fall back on your routine.

To complete a pattern while presenting a pretty picture to the judge, you must be able to connect with your horse every step of the ride. And the best way to keep that connection with your horse is to engage with his mind before it’s time to head to a show. If you do your homework ahead of time, you can use that connection to ensure that you have control in the arena, no matter the situation.

Instead of correcting a distracted or unbalanced horse by pulling or kicking, ask for a change of direction that will result in the horse rebalancing itself mentally and physically. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

Engage with Exercise

Connection starts with the baseline you set at home. What you do at home is so important because you don’t want to wait until you get to a horse show to change up your riding routine and cause frustration. By having control of your horse’s body, you also have control of what his mind is thinking. To do this you want to give yourself plenty of time to warm up.

Start by walking your horse and allowing him to stretch out. You’ll need to work on both lateral and longitude softness from the poll all the way to the back. Then, close your legs and hold your horse in the bridle with a light feel that gives him an opportunity to drive forward.

When he’s consistently driving into the bridle and releasing to the pressure while finding balance, reward him by stopping and resting. It lets him know he did the right thing.

Redirect for Success

When you’re riding and your horse becomes distracted, redirect his attention by changing your direction. This can take his focus off whatever is distracting him and get his attention back on you because he’s being given a new series of cues. This helps you regain the connection with your horse without forcing attention back to you in an aggressive manner.

Trying to cope with a horse that loses focus can turn into a fight when you react and don’t think through your steps. If he starts to lose connection, he’s probably going to lose balance, as well. Engaging your horse forward into the bridle by wrapping your legs around him and asking for a slight change in direction can help him regain his balance. When you have balance, you can control leg speed, leg quality, and top line.

[Tune-Up Your Showmanship Horse]

Just Go With It

When it’s time to go in the show pen, you must show what you have. If things don’t go according to plan, go back to the warm-up pen, and redo your steps. Evaluate the entire situation and come to a compromise between you and your horse, then stop for the day. Never take out your frustration on your horse, especially when you’re in the show pen in front of a judge.

Part of being a confident rider is not showing your disappointment or issues, but to work quietly in the warm-up pen to go through your steps to improve your connection with your horse, mentally and physically.

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