Day 4 Of The Confident Rider Challenge
I feel I need to start today’s challenge with a disclaimer. I have been working with horses for the past 30 some years. And the things that I do with my horses and share with you, works for me. I am not a professional horse trainer, nor do I claim to be. I have done a lot of research, had professional lessons, and made a lot of my own mistakes along the way on my own personal journey of being a more confident rider. I don’t push my ideas out as gospel, or the only way to work with your horse. But these are things that I do that have helped me, and maybe they can help you too.
But we are all individuals, and we all have our own way of doing things especially when it comes to working with horses. If I say or do anything that you don’t agree with or would never do, that’s fine. Do what is best for you and your horse. Ok, enough of the disclaimer, let’s talk about something fun, working with our horses!
Let’s Do This
All right, here we are on day 4 of the confident rider challenge! How are things going so far for you? How about your horse? I can tell you from my own experience, dedicating one’s self to working with your horse every single day is not easy! I know we are only 4 days into the challenge, but even for me, this is a challenge. In a typical week, I will work with my horses 3 or 4 days a week. But for this month, I am dedicating myself to see it through the challenge along with you. So I am doing it too! And 4 days in of daily work is definitely dedication. If you are doing this too, good job!!! And even if you are not able to do the challenge every single day, that is ok. Go at your own pace and do what you and your horse are comfortable with. Getting out and working with your horse whenever you can is great.
And for day 4, I want you to step outside of your comfort zone, just a little bit.
Desensitizing Your Horse
Today we are going to focus on doing something that your horse doesn’t always like to do. This can be anything. If he dances around while you spray him with fly spray, this will be your challenge. If your horse spooks at a set place in your arena, this might be a good thing to work on today.
For myself, I am going to work with Ethan and getting a bath. He used to hate getting a bath, but now he is much better. And how did he get better you might be wondering? With Repetition and consistency.
Ethan came to me as a horse full of fear and no confidence in himself, let alone his new owner. Everything inspired fear in him. He was very green to say the least. Even getting him to stand still for grooming took time. And forget any kind of spray. When he saw the bottle his eyes would get wild, his head would go straight up in the air and he would snort nervously as I tried to spray him with the bottle. And giving him a bath? Well, lets just say it was an adventure.
An Adventure In Bathing Ethan
But then fast forward to this May, after I had surgery and I wasn’t allowed to ride, but had received the medical ok to groom and bathe my horses. I was limited to what I could do and how much I could lift. But since I could bathe them, I decided to start working with Ethan and giving him a bath. I really didn’t want to give him a bath, but since it was one of the things I could do, I did it, a lot.
And with each bath, he got better and better. And sometimes I wouldn’t even use shampoo. After we walked around the yard, or arena I would simply hose him off. And it was so hot, I think he actually started to look forward to getting sprayed with the hose!
I had desensitized him to the hose, the water, the entire bathing process simply by doing it over and over again. I never scolded him for his fear. And I was sure to praise him for being so brave with every bath. And now, 8 weeks later, Ethan doesn’t mind getting a bath.
We also worked on using clippers, spray bottles, and everything else that I could think of that weighed less than the 10 lbs. I was allowed to lift.
Because of the repetition and consistency, Ethan got better and better. And my confidence level continued to go up. I was no longer dreading giving him a bath. Now if he gets really dirty, or works really hard, he gets a bath, and he is ok with that. I’m not saying he always enjoys it, but most of the time he seems too.
Do Something Uncomfortable
Getting your horse used to scary situations is what I want you to work on today. And it won’t happen in one day. But the point is to practice. Work on something that is uncomfortable for your horse. Is he head shy? That’s an easy one to work on. Take him into the arena and start waving your hands close to his eye. Be careful not to accidently hit him in the face, or the eye! But continue to move your hands up by his eye. He may back up and move away from you, and that’s ok, just stay with him, and continue to wave up by his eye. Eventually he will stop moving and stand still. When he gives you one of the signs of relaxation, pull your hands away. Then do it again. Continue to repeat the process until he keeps his head low and stands still. Be sure to repeat the process on the other side and be prepared that he will probably start freaking out all over again.
Confident Rider Daily Challenge
Your challenge today is a big one. Think of something that makes your horse uncomfortable, but you feel comfortable, or somewhat comfortable working on from the ground. Spend some time working through this with your horse.
But don’t pick something that is way out of your realm of comfort. If you don’t feel safe doing it, pick something a little less challenging. Remember, the idea behind this challenge is to build your level of confidence, not knock yourself down even further. Some examples I can think of that I have done with Ethan are:
- Applying fly spray
- Getting a bath
- Clipping his bridlepath
- Getting used to wearing a blanket
- Walking over some ground poles
- Getting used to a Liverpool (tarp)
- Standing still for saddling
- Getting used to the stick and string
- Opening his mouth for the bit
- Standing still for mounting
- Walking around big jumps
- Desensitizing to plastic bags
- Standing still for grooming
- Standing still, period
- Head Shyness
If your horse is amazing, and can do all of things already, congratulations! If not, hopefully that gives you some ideas of what to work on today. Don’t pick everything, pick ONE thing to work on and perfect before moving on to something else.
Repetition And Consistency To Build Confidence
And remember, this will not be solved in one day! However, if you choose one thing to work on, and you see some improvement, it will solidify that you can do this! It will increase your level of confidence and decrease your fear. That is always a good thing!
But always remember to work on things slowly, and safely!