Relationship Counseling

Relationship Counseling

Even though you can’t be a great rider without lots of practice and being in decent shape, I still claim that over 50% of the sport is mental.  That being said, I had a good ‘reset’ lesson on Tuesday night to address some of the communication issues with my horse.  I won’t bore you with the tiny details of the lesson, because it wasn’t that exciting, but I will share some of my take aways.


I do group lessons weekly, but sometimes having some one on one time is really good for some good ‘ol equine relationship counseling.  Even if my trainer didn’t say all of these things to me, riding with someone knowledgeable watching/checking/helping me tends to open up my eyes.

  • Demanding a notch above my horse’s comfort level of performance is a really bad plan when he’s already hot or anxious
  • Progress when working with horses is not always linear, and that’s okay.  Just because he did something well last week does not necessarily mean he will do it well this week… and don’t get mad if he doesn’t.


  • Don’t get mad at all.  Simon is not dropping his shoulder in the corners because he is personally offended by my riding… he’s just green.
  • Praise.  Even when the ride is going really poorly, find something to praise on.  If I can’t let my reins go at the moment, it needs to be with my voice.  If we’re done with something and walking for a bit… pet him and let him have loose reins for a few minutes.


  • My horse doesn’t have to be perfect every second of every ride for it to be a learning experience.
  • Simon doesn’t give a shit if he ever goes to an A show.  He has 0 goals and aspirations, so I need to remember that all he cares about is being brought up fairly and as correctly as I can.

What kind of ‘ah-ha’s do you get from lessons?

21 thoughts on “Relationship Counseling

  1. Since I don’t take lessons I can’t say anything about that, but each time I ride I have one of those moments. Honestly, my mom and BM are my trainers, I learn so much from them so I guess I kinda have “at home” lessons, lol. My biggest one so far is that I just need to trust him, let go of fear and focus on what we need to work on. That and praise! I totally agree with the praise thing.

  2. Excellent points! I can apply all of them to my baby too 🙂

    Every time I ride I’m reminded that this is essentially a sport of domination, and that I dictate Fiction’s actions. And, since I would like to be viewed as a benevolent dictator, I treat Fiction as I would like to be treated – nicely, but firmly. I will take care of Fiction to the best of my ability, while all I expect of him is to perform his tasks to the best of his abilities without too much of a fuss 🙂 I don’t always get my wish though haha!

  3. I know my biggest issue is me. I know that Ashke will do backflips if I can find a way to communicate to him that’s what I want. All of our practice and time riding is not to get him ready to show, but to get us working closer and closer as a team. And to make him strong enough to carry me as far, as fast and as wide as we want to go.

  4. Praise is a huge one for me. When I first got Foster I was all about positive reinforcement and was surprised at how much he reacted to it.. then somewhere along the line the demands started increasing and the praise started decreasing. We started stagnating a bit and it took him not wanting to come in a couple times that made me realize I needed to make our rides positive again. Now that our rides are filled with praise and pats on the neck, his attitude is completely new- I’ve never seen such a happy horse! It really is the relationship being horse and rider that counts the most. Glad you had your own breakthroughs too!

    1. I think a similar thing has happened with Simon. I feel like I only praise adequately him in my group lessons because I have other people around to enforce that we are doing things correctly. Something to work on for sure!

  5. I think those are all great things to remember. It’s so easy to get bent out of shape. Many of our failures come from self-fulfilling prophecies – we don’t think we can so we don’t.

  6. Love this post. Usually after lessons I’m just trying to remind myself my partner in this sport is a horse who sometimes has his own ideas and that regardless of what happened today, tomorrow is always another day 🙂

  7. Great post, as usual 🙂

    I need to work on the praise thing, even when a ride isn’t going the way I planned or wanted it to. I just need to work on being more positive in general! And to expect that things are going to be less than perfect while I’m getting to know a new horse…

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