Plan Your Play and Play Your Plan!
Do you find yourself going to Play with your horse and then not knowing what to do? This can cause a shutdown by you or your horse and you end up doing very little or perhaps the same things that you always do. Hmm I would suspect you have not “Plan”
Before you go to your horse ask yourself” What will I do today?” ” What is my “Plan?” Ask yourself what would I LIKE to improve on? Pick a theme and make a “Plan”. Write it down if you need to and put in your pocket…and then go out to “Play Your Plan”
Your “Plan” may need to be flexible depending on the horse that shows up. You might need to first check if there is something that you need to do before you “Play Your Plan”. You may need to see how the horse is mentality, emotionally and physically, but when its all good…. keep going forward and “Play Your Plan”.
If you choose a “Plan” and still don’t have a clue how to “Play” it, pick an easier “Plan” (one you know something about) OR get some help to give you more choices for plans and then you will be more comfortable in playing them.
Here is how I like to organize my sessions with my horses. I do write it down. Sometimes I take it with me in my back pocket ( I would suggest that you do this for a while) and sometimes I glance over it and can remember it. However you like to do this, writing it down accomplishes a few things. It serves as a reminder of what you are thinking. It organizes your thoughts. I commits you to making sure you don’t miss the 3 important sections ( Warm -Up, Content and Cool Down) and lastly it serves of a record of my long range goals, especially if you have more than one horse.
If you like to be super organized, I have designed a fun page for you (see below). You may want to print off a bunch and put them in a binder.
The 3 Components
The Warm Up
This is a time that you want to spend with your horse to see what side of the paddock he woke up on today. Use things that you have already found success with or that he knows well. It could be playing with some of the exercises that I teach in the School or some other kind of ground work which allows your horse to think. You are looking for him to be calm and connected with you. This will be evidence that he is in a thinking mood and not a reactive mood and may take anywhere from 3 minutes to 40 minutes. If it takes that long then the other 2 parts will have to be kept very short of perhaps that should signify the end of your session for the day. Remember it always depends on reading your horse.
This is considered the Focus of your session, and usually means something brand new, or a progression fo something that you have been working on. This should be the shortest part of your session. It takes a great deal of mental fitness for horses to think and understand something new. Your goal here is to watch for the try and celebrate when you get it by releasing, allowing your horse plenty of time to process it. Quit when you have accomplished this. Don’t get greedy and ask for it again..Just quit and your horse will remember it much better for the next time as they are latent learners.
The Cool Down
This part of a training session does not get the respect that it deserves. Most of know and understand that if a horse is soaking wet and has had a hard session physically, then of course he is “walked out” until the muscles cool down. But don’t forget there needs to be emotional and mental rebalancing of your horse as well. Your relationship and partnership with your horse is very important here as he sees you as someone to relax with and that association will be remembered as bonus points for your partnership . Undemanding time is one of the ways that you can accomplish this. Taking your horse for a walk or better yet for a graze or a groom is best.
Plan Your Play and Play Your Plan!..this will keep you progressive and fresh for your partner
To help you with your planning I designed a fun chart to help you with your PLAN. If it doesn’t work for you, make one of your own and if you would like to share it with the rest of us, we would love to have a number of them for others to choose from so please feel free to email a pdf copy of what you use.
Either way, remember for the sake of your horse “PLAN YOU PLAY AND PLAY YOUR PLAN” and have fund doing it.