Why You Must Know Your Horse’s Limits

Knowing your horse's limits and evaluating his physical and mental capabilities will help set you up for success.

Photos by Nichole Chirico

A horse has many moving parts and they need to work in unison in order for things to come together. Which is why you constantly hear me talk about the importance of doing fundamental drills with your horse every time you ride, whether he’s a seasoned show veteran or a 2-year-old that’s still learning. Those fundamentals might change depending on what you do with your horse, but there are a few factors that are worth evaluating regardless of what you plan on doing with your horse so you can better know your horse’s limits and what he’s physically (and mentally) capable of doing. By evaluating those two things, you will avoid frustration and be able to figure out the best path for your horse.

I’m going to go over those two factors and what you need to keep in mind to help you avoid frustration and figure out the best path for your horse.

Before you start working on fundamentals skills take time to evaluate your horse to better learn his limits and what he’s physically and mentally capable of doing.

Athletic Ability

The first thing you need to consider is how athletic your horse truly is. How your horse is made and what his conformation is like is a big part of his athletic ability and what he can or can’t do. If he isn’t physically built to do the job, you can’t expect him to do it well. Just how some people run faster than others, or jump higher, some horses are just better built to do certain events. If your horse isn’t built to sliding stop, or spin at a fast rate of speed, respect his physical limits.

There are things you can do to strengthen those weaknesses and make them better when you’re riding. But at the same time you need to recognize his weaknesses and where his limits are. For example, if your horse struggles spinning, you can improve it. However, you need to set realistic expectations and realize he might never be a plus one-and-a-half spinner.

Remember, when you’re in the show pen you should always focus on highlighting your horse’s strengths and minimizing his weaknesses. Getting hung up on his weaknesses and trying to make them better than what they can be will only make things worse. Instead, make sure you plus all those maneuvers your horse excels at. And then do your best to zero the maneuvers he struggles with.

Three pieces of gear to check out:

Willingness and Mental Capability

Another factor to consider when working with your horse is his willingness to do the event you want to do and his mental capability. What you want to accomplish as a rider must be something your horse is willing to do as well. You can’t force him to do something he’s unable to handle.

If your horse’s demeanor is completely opposite of yours, doing a certain event might not be in the cards. You have to realize you’re going to need to adjust your plan and find an event your horse enjoys. Or you’re going to have to part ways and find a four-legged partner that is a better fit.

It’s easy to feel like you’re giving up on your horse, especially when you develop an emotional bond and want so badly to do something together. But at some point it’s not good for your horse or you to try and force the issue. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Working with a professional is a great way to evaluate your horse’s ability to do a certain event. They can also help you find a horse that will fit your needs, if your horse isn’t physically capable of doing so.

Not every horse is built to compete in an event like reined cow horse. Learn your horse’s limits so you can set him up for success in an event he will excel in.

Time for Fundamentals

Once you evaluate your horse to better understand his physical and mental limits, it’s time to get to work.

Learn a few of my favorite fundamentals here:

Watch some of my favorite drills here:

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!