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  • Michael Lyons Horsemanship

The Number One Mistake We See People Make Training Their Horse



We see this happen all of the time when we are training our clients to work with their horses. It's a simple but drastic mistake. But all it takes is recognizing it and changing it to create a much better training environment for both you and your horse.

Before we get too far into this blog, I want to first start off with giving you a scenario. This is not a specific story, but one that we hear ALL the time from our clients when we are teaching. Susie comes to us for lessons because she is struggling with her horse. She doesn't feel like her horse is mentally engaged with her, and many times when he gets excited, he "acts up" whether it be on the ground or under saddle. She never feels that he wants to engage and respond to her and that he is always in his own little world while making his own decisions. So here she is wanting help.

The good news is, she has taking the first and hardest step in learning, asking for help and admitting that there is an issue. When she arrives and tells us what is happening we begin lesson with a very easy (and slow) going exercise. It is simple, and repetitive but yet Susie's horse in first 20 minutes is still showing signs of not responding well to her. This is where the largest mistake we see in our clients happens. Susie stops, and you can see her frustration start to appear. She is frustrated with her horse because he is just not getting it, and she is second guessing herself. She says "I don't think this is working for my horse. Or maybe I am doing it all wrong."

It is at this point where if she were to be home and not in a lesson with us that she would adjust what she is doing. Obviously to her it isn't working, so lets change it and try a new way, right? WRONG. This is what we see happen ALL the time in training clients to work with their horse.


Most riders do not work long enough to see a change. They don't stick with an exercise long enough for the horses to go through their entire Learning Stages and actually LEARN what they are doing. We live in a Microwave Society. We want to pop it in there, wait a couple minutes and see a result. That just isn't how horses work.

When you work with your horse you must be willing to play the long game. Many times when we hit this point in the training we get comments like "I need to do something different with my horse because it just doesn't work for me and him. It is getting worse and not better." When indeed the exercise is doing EXACTLY what it was intended to do, but we as riders don't like when the horse starts to struggle a little bit, or we don't give them the opportunity to find the answer. As their rider and handler we need to be quiet and patient in the things that we ask of them. KNOW going into it that they will struggle with things, sometimes they won't find the right answer quickly, and in that moment it is IMPERATIVE for us to stay patient and consistent in guiding them to the right answer. For some it may happen in a session, others may take multiple sessions, but stay consistent. When your horse is confused, we want him to lean on us and realize that we will show him the answer if he engages with us and thinks through it. If we were to change in this moment we will only create more confusion for the horse. Eventually, if we do this enough times the Horse will realize that we are not effective in teaching and handling and decide that in order for him to stay the safest, that he needs to tune you out and make his own decisions. This is where we typically find our disconnected and "problem" horses. It all boils down to effective and easy to understand communication for the horse. If our communication is not consistent and presented in a way that they can understand, our horses will always choose to tune us out because it is what they perceive will keep them the safest.

Think about you being in a scary situation with a couple of friends. Will you decide to go with the friend who is constantly second guessing and changing the escape route, or the one that develops a plan and is confident in the success of it.

Simply put being consistent not only with showing up for training your horse, but in each exercise itself will pay off the most in the long run. This simple piece is the first stepping stone to success in everything you do with your horse. Keep your mind quiet, and your training simple and steady.

**I of course say this as long as you are following along with a good professional who has given you all the tools to succeed and provided you good exercise.**