Making your horses well-rounded, predictable, steady mounts takes time, effort and work. This month, Lindsey Partridge discusses how she prepares her horses for dealing with the unexpected.
Have you ever decided not to work with your horse because it is windy or something is out of the ordinary and the horses are being fresh? Do you keep your arena set up the same way with poles/jumps always in the same corner?
I planned a day to the beach with my horses right before I was leaving Florida. It was the only day we had available to go before we packed up and would be heading home. There was a crazy rainstorm the day before and the day we planned to go to the beach it was ridiculously windy. Like, crazy windy!
It was my only adventure with my horses while in Florida so we decided to head out anyways and make the best of it. We arrived at the beach with manes and tails blowing in the wind, and definitely realized I would not be going deep into the water because it was just too chilly of a day… it was grey, waves crashing and literally gusting winds so loud that if I tried talking to my videographer we couldn’t hear each other even being just 40 feet away.
It was my Thoroughbred mares’ first time at the beach. With me were Fairly, who I’ve had for just over a year and is my 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover graduate, and Elysia who just came from the track about three months ago and is my 2020 Makeover hopeful.
This is where I am thankful that I train my horses for the unexpected. We still practice on windy days at home, we practice with blowing tarps in the wind and we constantly try to make the arena different to help my horses be ready for the unusual.
We started at the beach with a halter and lead rope, establishing some calm connection. After about 30 minutes my horses were breathing deeper, lowering their heads, blinking more steadily and showing they were ready for halters to come off and try liberty.
We played on the beach at liberty, walking, trotting, rearing, laying down, and having fun. I did a little riding but mostly focused on liberty. I kept the sessions short and successful. My horses ended up being able lay down on the beach, which is the ultimate test of relaxation.
We often face unexpected circumstances. You can be working with your horse and a flock of birds go buy, a dog comes running up to you, a plastic bag gets loose, or it is really windy so everything starts blowing and moving quickly. How will your horse react?
If we keep our horses in a predictable world, then they are not prepared for the unpredictable.
Some little things you can do to help your horse be more accepting of change:
- Feed your horse at slightly different times of day
- Move jumps/letters/obstacles around your arena so it doesn’t look the exact same every week
- Have a blanket(s) or flag(s) that you move around your arena/barn/paddock so that visually something is different around the farm
- Change up the order you bring your horses in/out
- When leading your horse, every so often carry a plastic bag or different objects
- Play different types of songs or sounds on the radio
- Get a friend to goof around while you work with your horse by dancing, or moving objects around in the arena causing a distraction
If we practice preparing our horse for the unexpected then they are more likely to stay connected and successful when something happens out of your control like a windy day, wildlife going past you or someone driving by too fast.
Now that we made it home from Florida and had a great time at the Horse World Expo in Pennsylvania, we are hunkering down at home in Canada. Horse World Expo was awesome and I am so thankful we got to go before the coronavirus outbreak. Elysia really shined during her Equitainment demo, and my mustang was a superstar with the crowd.
Unfortunately, a lot of our events are canceled that were up and coming like Equifest in New York and Equine Affaire in Ohio is currently undecided. However, the borders seem to be closing so we may be stuck in Canada for a while.
I hope everyone keeps themselves safe and their families (including your four-legged family members) fed and safe during this coronavirus pandemic. We hope to be back on the road in May for our west coast tour to the Western States Expo, but only time will tell.
Until then we will keep practicing being unpredictable — staying out of a routine and in a conversation.