Plan Your Play and Play Your Plan
Plan Your Play
Do you go to play with your horse and then not know 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 got a “Plan”.
If you don't know then you can not be clear and if you are not clear, then it will cause confusion, dominance, and even
un-confidence in either you or your horse or both of you.
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 it in your pocket… and then go out and “Play Your Plan”
...but be flxible
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 mentally, emotionally, and physically, and when it's all good, keep moving forward and “Play Your Plan”.
If you choose a “Plan” and still don’t know how to “Play” it, pick an easier “Plan” (the 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.
Organize Your Session
First, write your plan down. You can take it with you in your back pocket (I would suggest that you do this for a while). You might even be able to sometimes glance over it and remember it. I often use a whiteboard that is in the arena. However, is best for you, writing it down accomplishes a few things:
it serves as a reminder of what you are thinking
it commits you to actually move through a plan
it organizes your thoughts, committing that you don’t miss the 3 important sections (Warm-Up, The Content, and The Cool Down)
it serves as a record of long-range goals, especially if you have more than one horse.
I have designed a fun page for you to download by clicking on the button below as my gift. Print off a bunch and put them in a binder, or maybe it will even stimulate you to make one of your own.
The 3 Components To A Session
1. The Warm-Up
This is a time you want to spend with your horse to see what side of the paddock he woke up on today. Use exercises that you have already found success with or that he knows well. It should, however, be groundwork exercises that allow your horse to think. You are looking for him/her 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 or perhaps that should signify the end of your session for the day. Remember, it always depends on reading your horse. Your horse can not learn if he is emotional (and neither can we).
2. The Content
I consider this the Focus of your session and usually means teaching something brand new, or a progression of 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 then 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. You need to watch where relaxation happens and when you get this, quit. Horses are latent learners, which means they will remember better tomorrow, what you teach today.
3. The Cool Down
This part of a training session does not get the respect that it deserves. Most know and understand that if a horse is soaking wet and has had a hard session physically, then of course he/she is “walked out” until the muscles cool down. But don’t forget there needs to be an emotional and mental rebalancing of your horse as well. Your relationship and partnership with your horse are very important here as he sees you as someone to relax with and that association will be remembered as bonus points towards your partnership. Undemanding time is one way that you can accomplish this. Taking your horse for a walk or better yet for a graze or a groom is best.