Episode 46 // Young Horses & Preparing for Shows
We cover two topics, of similar nature, in this episode! To begin with... all the things you can do with young horses BEFORE you ever get on to ride! This can really help take away the pressure to get to those first rides, and put you WELL ahead of the game when it is the right time! Second, we discuss preparing for shows from home. Especially during this recent season in pretty much everyone's life with the pandemic. A lot of us haven't been traveling with our horses much and the shows have been largely virtual. It may be a bit of a surprise for your horse to suddenly return to the show arena after such a long time away, but it doesn't have to be!
[00:00:00] Hey there. Welcome to the TWE Podcast. The podcast where we talk about all things related to horse training, horse keeping and being better horse people for our horses. I hope you enjoy this episode today and if you'd like to share your thoughts with me or have suggestions for future podcast episode. Please feel free to reach out to me through social media or the TWE website, the willing equine.com. On my website you can also find a ton of great information about horse training and keeping in general, as well as check out the TWE services and just learn more about us. Also, we have courses and memberships that you could sign up for. Before you do that though, I would love for you to listen to this episode and I hope it inspires you in a positive way today.[00:01:00]
Welcome, welcome. I'm your host Adele Shaw, and I don't really know what I'm gonna call this episode, but what I wanna talk about is, well, basically I'm running off of a conversation I had this morning with another equestrian who has a young horse, and we were talking about how much we can do and prepare our horses for before we ever consider doing stuff like riding. So really the point of this conversation, why it came up was we were talking about not rushing, getting on horses for the first time and being patient and waiting for them to, you know, their bodies to mature and their minds to mature and for them to be physically safe basically to carry the weight of a rider. So for me, I don't usually start horses until they're four. And actually one of my horses, a, [00:02:00] a mare named River, I gently started, meaning I sat on her and walked around like a couple of times for five minutes at most a couple times last spring. So when she was four and now she's five and I'm going back in and I'm starting her fresh again. So I actually waited until she was five and and again, it's very light. I'm doing a lot of like preparing her. And we're just like walking around short periods of time. It's very lightweight. It's not a intense and I do this because we know from research and studies and all that, that horses do not physically finish growing and maturing until they're about seven years old. And interestingly enough, the last parts of their spine and everything to develop happen to very closely. Well, they, they are very important to carrying a rider safely. And I encourage you if you have young horses or work around young horses or plan to in the future, to go and look at that and look at [00:03:00] that information and just really important. It's really important information for those of you that are working with young horses to take into consideration how their bodies are still growing and finishing, developing well into the, they're seven years old. So when we look at what's been common to start horses at like two and three, I've even seen younger, unfortunately we just tend to rush things, right? We get, we get hurried, you know, we've been raising this horse, we've, you know, we bred the horse or somebody else bred it, but it's just trace it all the way back. So somebody bred this horse and they're really excited. They paired these two beautiful horses together, and they're so excited for the offspring and the potential that the offspring has. And they, you know, the mare carries the foal for a year and then the foal is born, right? Then the foal is with the dam and you know, super cute baby, all of that, right? But then there's this time period in between when they're weaned, which I have a, I believe that we tend to wean foals [00:04:00] too young. I like to keep 'em with their dams much longer than is common, which is around six months old to wean them. Don't agree with that, I think it's too young, and even if you did wean at that age, it needs to be done very gradually and I could do a whole nother podcast episode about that. Anyway, so let's just say we're six months old, right? So we wean them at six months old, and then it's like this waiting game, right? The average equestrian trainers, breeders, whatever, tend to just kind of, we just wait around. We wait around until they're old enough to ride. And we may be doing stuff with them, but it just, there's this pressure there, even if it's unspoken, right? We waiting and waiting and waiting for this like big, glorious moment where we get to start our young horse and start to see their potential come to light and it just becomes this really exciting time. And trust me, I fully understand this. I understand that desire to get to that point. I understand the excitement and how much enjoyment there is in it, and [00:05:00] just to really get to experience that for the first time especially. This is very close to heart for me this year because I'm working with quite a few young horses that are starting under saddle for the first time, and they're both well, one's four and one's five. And and then I'm working with some other young horses too. But those are the ones that are like really starting this year. It's just really hard to wait. It's really hard to wait. And and then I think, you know, there's certain breeds where it is common to do like inspections and stuff, so there's stuff that we do with them to go, you know, young horse shows and get them, you know, inspected and get their scores and all that. And that's great. And I think that's fine. Although they can be very stressful for the horses if they're not prepared for it fully. But for most of us, our horses don't go to inspections. Right? Like especially if you run in like with the horses. I usually work with a lot of quarter horses and thoroughbreds or grade horses, they're not an inspection, right? [00:06:00] So it's a lot of people, I see a lot of people just kind of waiting and waiting and waiting until they can start their horse. And so it makes it really hard for them to wait until the horse is 4, 5, 6, maybe even seven years old for the horse to finish growing and developing, and then they spend so much time just letting you know, just like not doing anything, like just so hyper fixated on the riding and training the horse to well, a lot of people don't do a lot of prep work up into riding, but they just, the focus is on riding.
Okay. So like, for me and the way I train horses, I spend a long time preparing horses for the first ride, I spend minimums like six months. And this is, we're talking fitness, we're talking about core development. We're talking about establishing cues from the ground. We're talking about positive conditioning to tack and weight on their back and different things that all center around getting them ready to [00:07:00] ride so that when I first get in the saddle, my horses are it's way ready for for it, right? They're just like, oh, this is just another step in the training. Like it's not a big deal. There's no drama, there's no bucking, there's no panicking. There's no even like fast walking or refusing to go forward. None of that. They're just are like, yep. Whatever. Actually, I'm speaking from an experience I even had today where I sat on one of my horses for the first time, one of the young horses I'm starting, and she was just completely unfazed. She was just like, yep. Oh, this is seems normal. This seems natural. Like you would just get on my back. Yeah. Like, duh, and that's what I wanna see. I wanna see that. I wanna see that every step of the way. It's beautiful. It's perfect. It's amazing. But you don't have to wait to do stuff with your horse till that point, right?
So let's say that. You know, I wanna start this horse at four years old. We're just gonna go with that age. And I need, let's say I say in my [00:08:00] brain, I need about six months to prepare them. Okay. Give or take, you know, for some horses take much longer. Depends on how much training they have before. It depends on the trust history, it depends on a lot. And let's say we need six months just to have a date, right? Or even a year, right? We'll just say, we need six months to prepare this horse for the first time I'm gonna sit on them. That's just kind of the timeline we have in our minds. It may take longer, it may take less. It doesn't really matter. We're just gonna say six months. It would be super tempting to, you know, wean the foal and then just have it do nothing and we're not doing anything with them. You know, you do some basic handling. You know, they can get their feet done. They need their feet regularly cared for, and they need medical care. And there is a tremendous amount of benefit to like letting your young horses just grow up, right? Just letting 'em be out in the herd and be with their companions and socialize and just live their lives as horses. Like that is so important. You guys know, I'm a big advocate for that. You need to let them grow and you need to let them be horses. That is really, I. [00:09:00] But imagine if, and this is where the conversation was that I had this morning. Imagine if you took that time from six months to four years old. Imagine if you took that time to intentionally expose your horses in a positive way to traveling places or to meeting new people, or to going out on hand walks alone.
So imagine it was like a trail ride, like you wanted to take your horse on a trail ride out by itself. But your horse isn't started under saddle yet, but you. Go on a hike with your horse out alone and teach them. That's a positive experience and lots of positive reinforcement, exposure to a lot of new things. Getting 'em used to it. It's also great for their body to be able to experience new types of footing and get that enrichment. It's fantastic.
So, you know, I imagine also taking them to. Like, imagine one of your horses needs to go for a vet visit. You could haul your young horse with you, you know, keep them safe. Don't [00:10:00] expose 'em to things that are gonna be contagious, things like that. But and you want it to be positive, so we're not trying to stress them out. And so make sure it's the horse that they're going with is confident and quiet and all of that. But imagine if they. Travel along with them and be able to hang out in the trailer and have some hay and get out and graze a little bit. Then get back in and go home. Like imagine if you spent so, almost so like three and a half years really focusing on what I'm gonna kind of call socializing your young horse, getting them out, exposing them to new environments, exposing them to different things you would like them to be able to do when you eventually get on and ride and do that before you ever even talk about or start the whole introducing to riding process.
And I'm bringing this up because well, for two reasons. One, I mentioned the it. I think this will take off a lot of that pressure [00:11:00] and that like ticking clock that we're kind of watching, like when's my horse gonna be four or three or whatever and I can start riding them. It takes the pressure off of that because we're so busy working on doing other things with the horse that we're not even too worried about that. Like that time will come, it's fine. We're having a lot of fun right now and we're enjoying this process right now. And that's. Okay, so that's one benefit. The second benefit is, You spend all of this time getting your horse ready to and exposing them to all the different types of environments and doing all the behaviors you would like them to do from the ground first for years before you ever start introducing them to the saddle and the rider. And then you get to the point where it's time for the saddle and the rider, and you get your cues for riding and all that, and you spend however long you need. To, you know, work on these things and then all of a sudden you can put them together and you are ahead [00:12:00] of the game. So a lot of people don't do a whole lot with their horse, and then they go to start them under saddle, and then they have to start this process then. So even if they started at like three, or maybe we'll say four. And they start the process of introducing to the saddle and then to the rider, and then teaching 'em to turn left and teaching 'em to turn right and backing up and all those things. Great, fine. And then they start working on going out on a trail ride by themselves. And then they start working on traveling to shows and then they start working on I'm trying to think of some other examples of things people might wanna do. Going over jumps or just going on trail rides in general or being able to ride around other horses or just, I don't know, there's like a lot of different things that we do once we get on the horse that we wait until we get on the horse to be able to start training our horses to do these things. Going into the covered arena, going [00:13:00] into the scary corners seeing the spooky, you know, whatever down the road, you know, going near roadways. There's so many different things we wait until we're actually doing stuff in the saddle to start preparing our horses for the things that we expect them to be able to do eventually once we're in the saddle.
But what if you took that and you kind of swapped it around, like you flipped it around, you spent the time first on the ground, getting your horse used to and prepared for everything you would like to be able to do once you're in the saddle, but without being in the saddle first and then, That part of it once they're old enough and mature enough, you're getting in the saddle. You're asking 'em to carry the weight, and then basically what you're doing is saying, here, horse, let's do everything we've done before. That was all positive and amazing, and now we're just gonna add a little bit of a different aspect to it. We're just gonna make it a little bit different and we're gonna do it with me on your back this time versus me on the ground. And it's so much [00:14:00] easier. It's so much easier for everybody because your horse had a guide you being on the ground, those first times that they experienced those things and they had a support system from the ground and they got to have that positive experience and all that, and you guys took your time. It was, you know, there was patience and all of that. And they didn't have to worry about also trying to balance with the rider and dealing with our normal stuff. I mean, riders, even the best are unbalanced sometimes or accidentally move the reins in a weird way or accidentally kick the leg, or, I don't know, just. You know, human stuff. We make mistakes, we do different things, and we're on top of their body. So not only are they carrying their body, they're carrying us on top of them. So we've got now their, you know, selves and how they can be unbalanced and have their different ways of moving and they might trip or whatever. And then you add us. Equally as problematic. We trip and get [00:15:00] unbalanced and don't have great muscle tone or whatever. You add that on top of their already young and unbalanced bodies. And then we put that in combination with, now let's go learn new stuff. Let's go to new environments. Let's go do new stressful things. And there's nobody on the ground to really guide them and it just makes things way more complicated than they need to be. So even when I'm working with adult horses that have a really long history of riding and maybe are great at riding, but maybe. Have trouble with going out on the trail by themselves or going over jumps or going to new environments, whatever.
I always start on the ground. I always start on the ground, getting them comfortable, making sure everything's okay, making sure they're good, making sure that they understand the task, and then I get in the saddle. So all I'm saying here is why not prepare ahead of time? You know, you have a general idea and maybe it's not confirmed completely. You [00:16:00] maybe don't know everything, what the future's gonna bring, but you have a general idea of some of the stuff you would like to do with your horse. Why not spend the time before. Getting in the saddle, preparing your horse for that. Start off in the ground, do that first. And that just takes off all the pressure really of getting in the saddle right away. It's also great for things like getting exercise for yourself, going on hikes with your horse is fantastic for that, and prepares you for when you're gonna be getting in the saddle for the first time and you'll be more fit and ready for that. And then, is really good for the relationship too. It builds that relationship, it builds the positive learning history, teaches your horse to be confident in new environments and when exposed to new things. And so they're gonna be much more likely to trust you in those new environments once you're in the saddle. And also just in general, be more confident. Be more confident in their abilities, be more confident moving around, and they're gonna be less like, Trying to figure out so many new [00:17:00] things all at once. So, Basically what I'm saying is, is use this time. If you have a young horse or a horse that's maybe older but just not physically ready to be started under saddle, or maybe you are not ready and you still want to spend time building up their strength or their health, or you know, maybe the timing isn't right for you personally, you can spend this time. Really building up that relationship and intentionally strategizing your training sessions and what you're doing with your horse and the time you're spending with your horse to prepare them ahead of time of what you would like to do once you are in the saddle. And this is going to be beneficial for both of you, and it's gonna save you time in the long run, in my experience. Save you guys both a lot of stress and uncertainty and potentially some very dangerous situations overall, anytime you can spend you know, time [00:18:00] preparing your horse ahead of time for what you would like them to do. It's always in the everybody's best interest.
And again, I know most people spend the time to teach the horses how to stand for the farrier and accept medical, you know, care. And generally things like leading or normal for young horses and teaching 'em to trailer. That's normal for young horses. I'm talking about beyond that. I'm talking about, okay, we want this young warm blood to be able to go to jumper shows eventually. Let's start taking him to jumper shows. Let's start taking him on trailer rides to a one day show and just getting him out of the trailer, taking him near the arena where he can see the flags and he can see the jumps and he can see the horses and he can see the people and he can see the hotdog stand. I don't know. and let him graze. Let him graze. Just let him have a good time, get some positive experience, not overwhelm him. You know, you need to do this gradually. Don't flood him with a bunch of new information. Maybe the first time he leaves the the [00:19:00] barn to go to a quote type show environment, you actually go more to like a local recreational area or trail ride where it's less chaotic. Maybe there's some other horses, but it's calmer. There's not flags and jumps everywhere. It's just a much milder environment. So you start off taking 'em somewhere like that and letting 'em graze or have some alfalfa. Go on a hike for a little bit and then come back and then put him back on the trailer and go home before he gets overwhelmed or too tired and do this over and over again until the day, you know, then you start him under saddle and you have that whole process.
So we're just gonna, that's like a, a chunk of time, right? That we're working on preparing him for under saddle stuff. and then you get him under saddle and then he starts learning how to jump at home and you've got the jumps going and he's doing great and he's ready for his first show. Now, let's say he's like six or seven, he's ready for a small training show or whatever. He's already been going to shows like this is no-brainer to him. Like, he's like, oh yes, like I know how to do this. Not a big deal. And so [00:20:00] now this new environment doesn't just blow his mind and he just gets stressed and overwhelmed and forgets all of his training. He's fully prepared for. Now all we're doing is saying, let's do it with a rider. Now let's do it with your new skillset, going over jumps and stuff like that. So you're preparing your horse ahead of time for this task once you're in the saddle. And it makes that process a whole lot easier and saves you guys time. And I've said that like a billion times. But also things like it is not even necessarily just going places. Think about again, this jumper horse, let's say. We're not gonna jump him until, you know, and it's gonna be very small, little cross rails, whatever, and you're gonna build up so we don't harm his joints and growth plates and all that. You're not gonna start him over jumps until he's four or five years old. Okay, great. That's fantastic. . That doesn't mean you can't introduce him to stuff that looks like jumps. It could be ground poles, very colorful ground poles. You could even have jumps in the arena that he's around. He could be going and traveling to different arenas with different [00:21:00] kinds of jumps around. You can get him used to flags, you can get him used to. Crowds of people, you know, host a clinic and for a trainer or something and have him around that environment, or take him to a clinic and have people around that are talking a bunch, or there's loud speakers. I mean, just install some speakers in your barn or bring out some portable ones, I don't know, and get him used to loud noises. Play loud soundtracks of clapping crowds. There's so much you can do ahead of time before you ever get on your horses back. And this goes and applies to everything is just gradual small introduction to, until you get to the end goal. But I'm specifically applying it to young horses here and. There's so much you can do that you don't have to wait until you're in the saddle and dealing with the problem in the moment. Like that's not, let's not wait until it's a problem to start working on it. Let's work. Let's work well ahead of time and have a strategy, have a plan to prepare this horse for what we expect them to be able to do later, or would like them to be able to do [00:22:00] later. And this really dovetails nicely into kind of preparing our horses for shows from. Or even clinics or going to like group trail rides or competitions of any kind. It doesn't really matter. Just, I very much encourage people to think about that environment. So again, we're gonna, it's very close to talking about like the young horses, but this can be for older adult horses too. Doesn't matter what age your horse is at, it's never too late to start preparing them for things like this. So let's say you have the, the goal of going to a schooling show next year, next spring, right? That's your goal, right? So you've got your training stuff you're working on, meaning you've got, let's say this schooling show is a, a jumper show. We'll just go with that. We'll go with or a dressage show. We'll go with that. We'll use a different example. Okay. So we have got a schooling dressage show that we plan to take our horse to next spring. We've got the date marked [00:23:00] down. Great. Fantastic. Okay, so you've, you're doing your lessons with your dressage trainer. Great. Fantastic. So you're working on your, you know, 20 meter circles and you're working on your leg yields and all these things. Great. Fantastic. , the training doesn't stop there. The preparation doesn't stop there. That's only a very specific skillset that happens within the test itself. So the dressage test where it's judged, but you've gotta look at the environment as a whole. Everything you're gonna be asking your horse to do, everything they're gonna be exposed to is something your horse needs to be prepared for. And you can't prepare for everything. I'm not saying, you know, to go overkill and drive yourselves nuts. We can do a whole lot better job than most of us are prone to doing. And I know for certain myself growing up, going to shows and being very competitive, I just took my horses into shows and I'm like, oh, why are they spooking at the flowers at C or whatever it is, at the judge's box, you know, all of that stuff. I would [00:24:00] always get frustrated when my horses would spook at these things, but guess what? I never did. I never prepared them for the stuff at home. , now that I think about it, when I look back, I'm like, why wouldn't they spook at it? This makes perfect sense that they would spook at it. They'd never seen anything like it. And I'm getting, I'm over here getting frustrated because they just messed up one of the two tests that I signed up for and I don't have another chance to do it. And I paid a bunch of money to be here, but I didn't really prepare them for what I was asking for. We had drilled and drilled and drilled and oh my gosh, drilled some more, our 20 meter circles because my geometry is way off. And I just can't visualize things like that. I'm so bad at that. We had drilled to no end the 20 meter circles, right. But nobody had mentioned the fact that there would be a giant judge's box that was painted bright white or whatever color with maybe some flowers all around it. And it would be, we'd have to ride straight at it, almost af as if we're gonna run into it and then turn [00:25:00] at the last minute. Like that is not normal horse behavior, and it is not something that is normal at a horse barn. Like most of the training barns that aren't set up to do shows at their actual location don't have that. And so we're just like upset with our horses for anyway, . So without getting too crazy into the details, , prepare your horse, like prepare your horse at home. So you know, you may not know exactly what the environment's gonna look like, but you can pretty much guess there's gonna be flowers or flags or people, crowds of people around. There's probably gonna be bleachers. There's probably going to be a judge's area. There's probably going to be some dogs on leashes. There's probably gonna be some kids. There's probably going to be a steward at the in gate, there's probably gonna be strange horses moving around, [00:26:00] trotting around doing other things. There's probably going to be ribbons and you know, for sure it's a new environment, you know, it's gonna be a new stall or holding area for your horse to be in. You know, they're gonna have to go in a trailer, you know, they are going to have to deal with being washed off and cleaned and groomed. You know, they're gonna have to be tied, you know, they're gonna have to deal. Having their mane and tail braided. You know, like there's all these things we do know, right? Start preparing them at home before you ever leave home. Do a fake braiding session. Tie them up, you know you can probably ask your braider how long, if you don't know, ask them how long it takes them to braid a mayer tail and practice tying up for that because most of us don't really tie, or at least I know I don't, and I know a lot of people that don't tie our horses for that long of a period of time that it takes especially young horses to braid their man and tail and you know, [00:27:00] that it would take somebody to braid their man and tail and they have to stand very, very still.
So start preparing for that ahead of time. Okay. And then maybe another example is, Start We there's not really like at my place where I am, it's just really me and maybe an intern or a student here or there. There's not like crowds of people, so my horses are not used to crowds of people. Actually, up until more recently when I started hosting clinics at my place, I. The first time I had a bunch of people line up behind my horse's pens, they were all like wide-eyed and like, what are all these people doing here? And they were super surprised. If I had asked them in that moment to perform new behaviors we'd been working on to their uppermost level, they wouldn't have really been able to do it without getting really stressed out about it. So it just, it was a really good example, it was a good practice session for them to get to run through their behaviors that they know really, really well. So we practice on some more introductory [00:28:00] behaviors, or I should say they're foundation behaviors. So just standing in a default position next to me and targeting this and a little backup. You know, things like that while the people stand, stood further away where the horses were a little bit more comfortable and they just got that experience. So over time they started to settle, oh, okay, it's okay that all these people are around. And with more practice like that, They're gonna get more and more comfortable with having people around until it's not a big deal at all and there's no concern and they can do whatever you ask 'em to do in that moment. So we can start doing stuff like that purposefully. Maybe go out during your barn's, busy time when the bunch of kids from after school hours are at the barn and they're all around the arena. Or maybe it's a group class or, I don't know, something. A lot of boarding barns. There are times of the day where there are tons more people. Or they have group events, so you know, maybe you have like holiday parties or something like that. That might be a really good time to bring out your young [00:29:00] horse and just have them at a distance. You don't wanna create a safety issue or overwhelm your horse, but at a distance have your horse practice standing still in that experience in that. Moment during that environment or perform a few behaviors and then grades for a little bit, and then perform a few more behaviors, and then grades for a little bit. Just get 'em used to crowds, get 'em used to people. Same thing with like the flags and the flowers. Like start setting up, you know, grab some flowers from a show, maybe your barn host shows every once in a while, go grab some of those flowers and put 'em up around your horse's pasture or in the arena while you're doing a lesson or practicing. That would be really good if you're doing any type of in hand practices. Or maybe your horse is started under saddle or doing training under saddle regularly. Start setting up some stuff that could be potentially a little bit scary during your practices. Hang up some flags, put the flower boxes around. Change the colors of some few things. Have little groups of people clustered [00:30:00] around. Have people stand right at the bottom, you know, of the straight line and you know, or right in the corner where your horse, you know, if they're gonna run straight into it, you wanna teach your horse to be able to go straight up to them and turn and just start practicing these things.
There's so many opportunities, so many opportunities, and you're not gonna be able to do 'em all. I'm not, you know, delusional, we only have a certain amount of time and a, you know, we either have a lot of horses that we gotta practice with or we have full-time jobs, or we have kids. Life is busy. I get it. You can't spend every waking hour with your horse. I wish we could so much. And also it'll drive you and your horse a little bit nuts trying to get every little thing ever practiced. So don't worry about that. Don't worry about going to a perfectionist level. Don't worry about driving yourselves crazy. Just do a as much as you can. And the more you can do, the more your horse will become confident and the more exposure they will get and the more they will start to trust new [00:31:00] experiences. And they'll just in general, start to roll over on itself and compound, I guess I should say, until your horse in general is just more prepared and there's still maybe something that shows. Then that's a little bit weird. Or they weren't prepared for maybe you prepared for all the things. You practiced with flags, you practiced with flowers, but you didn't practice with blue flowers. And your horse is like, oh my gosh, it's blue flower or white flower. Who knows? . What will happen though is if you practiced with a bunch of other colors of flowers, but not this color flower. The horse may look at it briefly for a second, but like, I know when I'm introduced to a new thing and my owners really, or caregiver ride or whatever, is really patient and it's usually a positive experience. I'm gonna be curious about this. If they get an opportunity, they might be able to investigate it and they will breeze past it much faster than they would had you not done any preparation at all. And just the more time they get, the more exposure they get. I mean, any green horse, any horse [00:32:00] that's new to showing is going to have things that show up that they're just not prepared for or at least not fully prepared for. We just try and do the best we can and it just keeps building as they get more exposure and it's positive for them, over time, they get less and less worried about all these little things. And before you know it, they are very experienced. They've been around. to show after show, and they are just easygoing. No big deal. Nothing worries them anymore. And that's really the goal to get there when you have a seasoned show horse.
And this might be really beneficial for people who, well, one with the young horses or two, maybe you don't have a lot of opportunity to trailer your horses places and go to a lot of shows, and it's a limited opportunity for you. You only get to go to a show every once in a while. . And so it's hard to have that seasoned show or that seasoned competition horse because you're not able to go to tons and tons of competitions. Doing the practice at home will help you achieve that without having to [00:33:00] travel a bunch and you know, you spend lots of money and all of that. Also, with recent pandemics and all that, a lot of us have been at home with our horses and they haven't really gone anywhere so, Reintroducing them, like re socializing them to the world, reposing them to the world in a controlled environment at home is great way to start. And then you can start gradually taking them back out into the bigger world where they're traveling to places and all that. And you're not gonna have full meltdowns on your hands. So, There are, again, so many ways we can do this. Play soundtracks, get weird objects, even if it's not something they'd really see at a show. Just lots of exposure and make it positive and what I mean by make it positive. Before I end, I'm gonna kind of explain on this a little bit further. I personally call it what I do, positive exposure training. And really what I mean is I'm using a systematic desensitizing. Process, and I'm using positive reinforcement too, [00:34:00] along with a form or like a opera or respondent conditioning where I am, sorry. Oh my goodness. Classical or respondent conditioning where I'm just associating something that's potentially scary with an repetitive outcome. So usually this has to do with food, but sometimes it's scratches getting to graze, things like that. So I say, look, here's this scary object, but I introduce it at a level that the horse is comfortable, or maybe acknowledging it, but not worried about it yet. So this is where the systematic part comes in- I expose them only at a level that they aren't gonna go over threshold. So meaning that they're not going bump from interested to worried to scared of, right? So we go like at different stages where we're interested in it. Hmm. What is that kind of thing to [00:35:00] the next level, which is kind of like the yellow zone, right? Warning, like, we're starting to get up there in, and this is like the worried zone. So we're like, okay, I don't, I see that and I'm, I kind of worried about it. Like, what is that? Should I be scared? Should I be running right now? Should I be, you know, is it gonna hurt me? So we don't wanna be in that zone, and we definitely don't wanna be in the zone of, oh my gosh, this is gonna get me, I better run or attack. Or shut down and freeze and just like be stuck in place. Like, I'm so petrified, I can't even move. So we don't wanna be in the red zone, that's the red zone or the yellow zone. We really wanna be in that green zone where they're acknowledging it, it's a thing, but it's not scaring them. And this looks like different things, depending on what you're working with. If it's going towards a scary corner in the. Maybe they acknowledge the scary corner of the arena when they're halfway an arena away from it, right? That's the green zone. We work in that zone first, and [00:36:00] I, you know, maybe if I'm doing clicker training or positive reinforcement training, then I am, you know, just asking 'em to stand still with me. Kind of look over in that area, maybe do some targeting, things like that. In, you know, in that proximity to the scary corner, clicking and reinforcing. Great. Fantastic. Okay. Then I asked them to step just a little bit closer and we continued to do this process, continuing to reinforce them for engaging with me, staying focused and acknowledging the corner, all of that, gradually stretching their comfort and threshold and all that to be able to be closer and closer. So we're systematically working our way towards the scary thing and exposing them a little bit more at a time until all of a sudden the corner's not a big deal anymore. And even the corner becomes this really, really awesome place. Because anytime I'm in by the scary corner, lots of positive reinforcement happens. That's just one version of what I put under the umbrella [00:37:00] term for myself, which is the positive exposure training. There's different ways that that might look like depending on what it is. If it's a saddle pad, it's gonna look a little bit different than a scary corner of the arena. But the idea is the same. I'm creating positive associations with the new scary thing or potentially a scary thing. Maybe they don't even know what it is yet. And I am making sure they're under threshold, so we're not in the yellow or the red. We're in the green zone. and we're doing it very carefully as the horse is comfortable.
And so it's really important to intentionally and purposefully expose your horses in a positive way towards the things or the actions or the places or whatever it is before you expect them to do it with a rider or even. With a rider at home first before you take them to the new environment. Like there's so many ways that we can prepare our horses, [00:38:00] whether they're really young horses, so horses that aren't under saddle yet we can start preparing them well ahead of time so that when a we are ready to get in the saddle. They're just prepared, like they're just like, this is no big deal with whether that's the introduction to the saddle itself and the rider itself, that's great. But also I'm talking about the things like trail riding and going to shows and all of that. Like you can do all of that preparation while you're waiting for your horse to mature. And this is going to help so much like the points I made in the. With helping you be more patient about getting on , and two, once you are on, you guys are already ahead of the game. So there's a lot of benefits there. But also for every horse, whether they're young or or older or more experienced or whatever, you can work towards having a a horse that is more comfortable in new environments or more prepared for the things that you wanna ask them to do, whether it's going on a trail ride or going to the show. Maybe you've had to take a season at home, like from [00:39:00] recent pandemic and all of that. We've all been very, you know, just staying at home in our previously seasoned competitors may be a little bit nervous going back into the show environment or maybe it's their first time in the show environment, whatever. There's so much you can do at home to positively prepare your horse for that so that when they are taken into that environment, it's just no big deal.
Thanks so much for listening. If you'd like to find out more, head to my website, the willing equine.com. I'm also on a lot of different social media platforms, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook. So check those out and I'd love to hear from you, so don't hesitate to email or send me a message.