A Healthy Work Ethic

How do you keep your horse happy in his work? I know for definite that my horse would tell me if he was bored or uninterested in our work. But this is so important, a happy horse performs so much better!

My weekly routine consists of one hack (if not two, depending on the time of year), two days rest, and four days of schooling. Now my schooling may be a lunge session, a jumping session, or mid season a cross country session, as well as dressage. This time of year there is less opportunity to hack or jump, so I tend to turn my attention to dressage. Today we ran through both tests for Sundays competition, and he performed nicely. So as a reward, we popped over the couple of jumps that were at the other end of the school. His ears pricked forwards and he got a bit more of a spring in his step. Reminding me that I need to stop being quite so focused on upcoming tests and just have some fun!

Sometimes the riding school horses, especially those for beginners, get a bit switched off with their work. Hacks tend to be limited to walk and trot, and lessons tend to be flat work and a bit of bumbling around in canter. So a couple of weeks ago I put out a couple of poles, and one particular mare who isn`t allowed to jump as she`s had problems previously with tendons (many moons ago) pricked up her ears in anticipation. We started off walking over the poles, talking about being central and straight towards the pole and then straight away. Not looking down at the pole, you know the drill. And this mare practically marched towards the poles. Then we did the pole in trot, and we almost had medium trot towards it! She thoroughly enjoyed the lesson, and I believe her demeanour, whilst never sour, for the next few days changed for the better.

This leads me on to dressage horses; how do these riders keep their horses occupied and mentally happy? One lady at the yard doesn`t hack her horse as he can be a total nightmare, and frightened her a couple of times, but she doesn`t jump and rarely goes over poles. In addition to this, the schooling sessions focus on very similar things; leg yield, half pass, transitions. I think she lunges twice a week, but it still defies my comprehension as to how her horse performs to the best of his ability.

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