Surviving a bad horse day (or week)

When you have a green horse, staying positive during a not so great training session is essential. And trust me, there are going to be lots of not so great days!

I guess if there was one thing I wasn’t really expecting with horse ownership, it was the fact that there are going to be bad days! (Slap me, so naive). I had this perfect vision of horse ownership, it was disgustingly over the top like all those cheesy movies where the main star is riding happily into the sunset. Now don’t get me wrong, horse ownership is a beautiful thing and I love every minute, but it is definitely no cliche or stereotype!

When I first bought Nigel my OTTB home, we didn’t do any canter (aside from on the lunge), for quite a few weeks because he would pigroot and keep trotting, or when we could get a canter, it was completely sideways! I have to admit, there was a brief point in time, that hidden in the very back of my mind I was thinking “OMG what if I’m not good enough to do this”. Just think about that for a second. What if I’m not good enough. Thinking back now, I get a bit annoyed with myself that I automatically decided that I wasn’t good enough instead of thinking about how I could communicate differently with Nigel. I bought a GREEN OTTB, where along the lines did I forget this! And for the record, we do some great canter now!

The other thing I’ve been working with is the appropriately named ‘squeals’ (all professional horse terminology here). This is when your ex-racehorse forgets he is no longer a racehorse and starts hopping around, spinning and squealing, usually around other horses that remind him of track life. Now the first time I experienced the squeals, I had about 10 different things running through my mind! Was my tack hurting Nigel? Is he sore somewhere? Did something bite him? Am I doing something wrong? The list goes on. Turns out, oh yeah, he was a racehorse for 3 years! (I obviously keep forgetting this). And if you can’t already tell, it’s having a good sense of humour that really keeps me motivated to stay positive on every ride. A sense of humour is your best friend!

So the thing is with training a green horse, the more you ask of your horse, the more you (and your horse) may not necessarily get it right the first time. When training goes wrong, yes consider the fact that maybe you are doing something wrong and work out how to fix it, but don’t automatically assume you are not good enough. Confidence is everything! The question I often ask myself is, how can I help Nigel understand what I am trying to communicate? Remember, having confidence in yourself never comes from having the answers, it comes from being open to the questions.

Cover photo credit; Christine Johnson

This blog is the personal opinion and experience of the author. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor or trainer for your own specific situation or circumstance.

2 thoughts on “Surviving a bad horse day (or week)

Add yours

  1. Horse training can be very humbling Tara and as you are discovering, whenever you think you know what is happening something will pop up to make you realise you really don’t. You are on a great training adventure and I love the thoughtful researched way you are approaching it. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was young I had a Standard bred pacer, no not s trotter, a pacer, thought I could re-educate him as a pleasure horse (he looked magnificgnt) he would pace pace pace faster and faster then gallop! I could never get a canter out of him and trotting was impossible, well he just couldn’t trot. There nothing in between lol, just pace and gallop and nothing we could do would make him do anything different … my point is, you have an ex racehorse who only ever knew one thing and that’s to race, so you have done really well to get where you have in such a short time .. can’t wait to see you and Nigel in action x

    Liked by 1 person

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