Wednesday, 27 February 2013

What motivates horses?

What’s the payoff? A happy horse is trained based mostly on motivation. Relief from pressure (negative reinforcement), or receiving a specific reward (positive reinforcement).

Saying yes and saying no. Skilled trainers use a balance of both and that balance shifts with each individual horse. The emotional horse needs more encouragement. The dominant and dull need firm boundaries. Riders who motivate mostly by punishment produce tense horses. Those who mostly pat and talk to their horses make them inattentive and pushy.

And what motivates people to change? Do you think it’s when we realize the payoff of what we gain in giving something up is more than the payoff of holding on to it?

Sunday, 24 February 2013


In riding or in life, a change of pace or a change of place.

Transitions between gaits. Trot to canter. Canter to halt. Halt to walk. The unique “beat of the feet” changes from one gait to another.

Transitions within a gait. The drumbeat of the gait remains the same, but the stride lengthens or shortens. Practicing this develops longitudinal suppleness – your horse becomes as adjustable as an elastic band.

Tips for top transitions: Aim for …
  1. No flee. The horse doesn’t rush into the next gait and out the “front of the box”. We want to avoid any sign of flight response in a prey animal.
  2. No brace. No resistance to your aids –leaning on your hands, sticking on your leg aids.

In life, timely transitions are essential, don’t you think?

We may be inclined to rush into the next opportunity or confrontation with someone. Or sometimes we get stuck – paralyzed to change careers, location or our traditions.

When to move, when to wait – I need to remember to ask One who has the helicopter view!
Psalm 25:5 Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Monday, 11 February 2013

What makes a good coach? Part 2.

Now let’s get practical. Here are some pointers from a coaching expert…
  • Analytical eye. Ability to zero in on the issue and the source of it. Developed from watching hundreds of horses and riders and thinking about what we see
  • Proven corrections. And a plan B or C if correction A doesn’t solve the problem
  • Ask questions. Involve the riders.
  • Provide rationale for the corrections we suggest
  • Plan a balance of practice sessions to competitions. It’s proven that rider burn out is the result of too much showing without soaking in enough practice in between
  • Foster independent thought. Decision making. The goal is not to have a riding lesson at horse show.
Practice that requires some form of problem solving, known as “decision training,” may not produce as rapid a result early on but leads to superior learning and retention of skills as well as superior transfer of skill into the competitive environment. 1

Taken from: Vickers, J.N. (2002). Decision-training: A New Approach to Practice.

Monday, 4 February 2013

What makes a good coach? Part 1

A good coach knows It’s more than horse shows. Our students may take away a ribbon, year end title and “Congratulations!” from peers as they exit the ring. But if they don’t take away life lessons learned from the pressure cooker of competition, we’ve failed as coaches. In 25 years of coaching, I smile as I look back at the clients who’ve been transformed through riding and showing. Negative qualities bubble up and are skimmed off, leaving the good stuff that was hiding underneath…
  • The selfish teen girl learns to pick up a broom to help out in the barn, empathize with her horse, fellow riders and even her parents (truly a miracle!)
  • The timid middle age woman develops confidence to risk failing in the fishbowl of the show ring. (Even the pluck to wear “nowhere to hide” riding pants!)
  • The macho man sheds his cowboy image to learn to work smoothly and sympathetically with his horse (and take instruction from a woman!)
  • Creative problem solving, humility, humour, perspective (“this too shall pass”). Lessons coaches teach alongside with riding without stirrups, Because its’ more than horse shows.