Horse Training Through Exhaustion
By Don Blazer
Well intentioned, but bad advice!
“A tired horse is a good horse,” claims a high-profile clinician.
No! A tired horse is a tired horse. He isn’t anything other than what he was, except tired.
The “tired horse is a good horse” advice was in reference to another statement about arena riding making horses “sour.”
No! It’s not the arena that makes horses sour….it’s not getting relief from pressure, not being challenged to learn new things, or just plain being physically “tired” from going around and around and around.
If you want a show horse, arena riding is the place to train, perfect and show.
Horses love routine; it’s one of their natural instincts. Horses are creatures of habit and are most comfortable when they are in familiar (therefore) safe environments. Horses love their arenas!
You won’t get much training done if your horse is away from the familiar - spooking, shying, and prancing and dancing…he can’t concentrate on lessons.
When you are away from your arena, you’ll want to “familiarize” your horse with his new surroundings. Walk your horse around and let him “see, touch, hear and smell” until he is comfortable. Only then can you get quality warm-up and show preparation training.)
Polish your horse’s skills in your home arena; riding as if you were at a show.
Ride in the show pen as if you were at home, riding in your arena.
Your horse won’t be “soured” by the arena; he’ll be happy, safe and eager to learn and please.
And if you want a “good” horse, there are three good reasons you don’t want a tired horse.
1. Horses, just like humans, don’t learn well when they are physically tired. If you’re physically tired, it’s a bad time to try to train a horse. If the horse is also physically tired, it’s a very bad time to try to train a horse.
It’s always a good idea to give a horse plenty of warm up…and it’s a good idea to lunge or pony a horse to “take the edge off.” But that doesn’t mean getting him tired; it means preparing him mentally to receive new information.
If you make a horse physically tired, he hasn’t learned anything except that what he has been doing isn’t very pleasant. “Laziness” is another natural instinct of horses since they are prey animals and need to be ready for flight at any moment…they don’t want to be tired.
2. Horses that are physically tired can’t perform at their highest skill levels.
A tired horse has a very hard time trying to round up and collect. A tired horse is not thinking of putting out more effort in response to cues, but is thinking of how to reduce the effort tired muscles are being asked to exert.
The conformation of a horse makes carrying a rider (of any weight) difficult at best. The smartest trainers condition a horse to carry a rider and themselves with mild stress, then rest. The conditioning process takes time; and is best done by keeping the horse well within his physical limits.
3. Tired horses are prone to injury. (And can be somewhat dangerous to ride.)
Fatigue is probably the greatest single factor in horses bowing tendons, straining ligaments or tearing muscle. Fatigue is a cause in horses speedy cutting, brushing, scalping and pulling shoes.
I’m not against putting miles and miles and miles on a horse…over a period of time….those miles will undoubtedly aid in making the horse a better horse.
A tired horse wants a drink, needs a cooling bath, has aches and pains and needs rest. A tired horse isn’t a good horse; he’s just a horse that needs a better training plan.