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Don Jessop

I know you know this already, but sometimes... even something you know, you need to be reminded of. At least that's true for me.

There is a difference between having a horse that is capable of responding and having a horse that consistently responds. Think of asking your horse to canter while riding...

Is your horse capable of cantering? Yes!

Is he consistent in his responses? You tell me!

Most people leave their training sessions at "capable." Which means, yes, your horse can do what you ask. And in the beginning, that's appropriate. But at some level, someday, you'll have to dial in your training style to train for consistency of responses instead.

Now... what does the rider need to do to get better?

You guessed it. PRACTICE!

Practicing, or I like the word polishing, a cue is something a lot of riders either don't know they have to do or simply choose not to do. It requires repetition even when things are going well. Which means... it is entirely possible to quit too soon with a horse. It's nice to have a capable horse. It's a whole other thing to have consistency. Think of it like two different modes of training. First you train the horse to be able to do something, then you train the horse to do it so well that anybody else could get the same results with your horse.

Imagine spending a few weeks or months with a young horse teaching them to be capable of cantering safely. Now, shift gears. You're safe. Now it's time to teach the horse to be so good at that cue and so non-reactive that even a young person or novice rider could safely enjoy the canter on that horse. That takes time. I call it treadmill time, because it's not new anymore. It's repetition. It's polishing.

The real trick is discovering how to make consistency training valuable and rewarding for both you and the horse.

To learn that... imagine hiring a coach to turn you into an athletic marathon runner and his job is to make you feel happy about the time you're going to spend on the treadmill, (while you're on the treadmill.) What would he need to do for you? What kind of rewards would need to be in place for you to enjoy the long, boring work.

You see, this is why horses struggle with developing skills, or I should say, polishing skills. Horses struggle to understand why they should keep going even when they get it right the first time. Take trailer loading for instance. At first, it's nice to know your horse can get in and not be afraid. But then the real work begins. Your training style has to shift to making getting in and getting out and getting in again, over and over, valuable and even fun for the horse.

Do a self check first. Are you okay with repetitive training? Most people have their own internal struggles with it. It's natural. It's something you might want to improve upon. Then, when you're ready, apply it to your horse. Help the boring work be easier and more valuable with more rewards and more recesses between the work. You could work daily and you could even have several sessions in one day and also work daily. It depends on the endurance required for the tasks. Cantering for instance takes a lot of energy and time to recover, so less, more often is good. Trailer loading however could be done over and over in a single session, then daily for a few days, then you'll find it's better than ever.

Will your horse get bored during your polishing sessions? YES! Do you know how to motivate and encourage a bored horse? It's a useful skill to know. Most people simply avoid ever boring their horse or they send their horse to a trainer to get through those session without them. But one way or another, repetition is always the mother of skill.

In summary, ask yourself, is it time to shift from asking my horse if he or she will do something for me to asking if he or she will do something well, more polished, more consistently. Imagine a more novice person or someone unfamiliar to your horse. Could they get the same results? It's a good thought experiment to learn your horses true understanding of a task.

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Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


Don opened up a community, full of people on the same journey you are!
To share LIVE Q&A's and help people and horses transform Confidence.

Don Jessop


Don shares his  passion for writing with his passion for helping horse owners see the horse and themselves for who they truly are.

Don Jessop


Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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