Stuck In a Training Rut? Try This.

Are you and your horse stuck in a training rut? Challenge the status quo, break the routine, and bring back the spark to your riding. Here’s some advice on how simplicity, variety, and thoughtful riding can refresh your training and your horse’s mindset. Whether you’re a trailblazer or a show ring veteran, these tips are designed to fine-tune your program and make every ride a positive experience for both you and your horse.

If you’re stuck in a training rut, try out these tips to mix things up for you and your horse to avoid burnout. TOM/adobe.stock.com

Rediscover Active Rest Days

High performers need to recharge. Seasoned show horses require strategic training intervals to avoid burnout. Dive into the art of active rest day exercises like turning out, legging up, and casual ponying. This ensures not only physical rest but also a mental break that can powerfully reset and invigorate the horse’s state of mind. Don’t always demand intense training sessions for every ride, as this can cause your horse to become sour, bored, or even injured.

Expand Your Arena of Work

Break free from the monotony and routine of the arena. A training or riding rut might stem from doing the same tasks over, and over again. Repetition might be key, but so is dynamic stimulation. Challenge your horse with new environments, terrains, and experiences. This not only adds excitement but also gives your horse experience in new environments. Many high-level trainers and seasoned riders swear by time spent outside the arena. Go for a trail ride, stroll through the pastures, gather cattle, or try out different disciplines just for fun. Variety is the spice of life, and your horse will probably enjoy the change in routine as well.

Embrace the Element of Surprise

Predictability can lead to boredom, even in the most disciplined horse. Seek out unexpected elements to spice up your routine. Whether a change in gaits, direction, or an entirely new skill, the element of surprise keeps your horse engaged and eager to learn. Oftentimes seasoned show horses will start to anticipate maneuvers if drilled continuously for too long. Mix things up, and give him something else to think about. Throw in some obstacles, try some groundwork, or change the environment to ward off boredom and help your horse get acclimated to new things.

Monitor Your Horse’s Wellness

Investigate and address any signs of avoidance or stiffness, as these can impact your horse’s overall happiness and ability to perform. If he is suddenly displaying behavior problems, refusal to do simple tasks, or if he just “feels off,” check with your vet to rule out pain. If you’re a new rider or unsure of how to spot signs of stiffness or pain, work with a trusted trainer to help hone your eye. Know your horse’s baseline health, so that you can quickly get a feel when he just isn’t feeling right.

Know When to Back Off, and When to Encourage

It is important to listen to your horse and know when he needs a rest day, a trail ride, or just a good grooming session and bonding time. If you’re prepping for a big show, riding him hard into the ground the day before probably isn’t the best idea. However, you also need to make the most out of your training sessions. Practice like you’ll show by striving to ride correctly and execute maneuvers properly when training. Don’t push your horse past his limits, but understand the balance between knowing when to quit and when he can be challenged. Listen to your horse, observe his behavior and body language, and he will tell you what he needs.

[How Does Your Horse Feel Your Energy?]

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