by | Nov 9, 2022 | Uncategorized

We’ve all experienced it – the horse seems happy, energetic, and you’re excited to work, but as soon as you get into the arena the horse loses all enthusiasm. So how do you bring the fun back into arena work for your horse?

Firstly, ask yourself: Do you actually feel like working in the arena today? Or would you much rather be out and about on a trail? It’s hard for the horse to be enthusiastic when you’re not! If you are wanting to work in the arena, have a clear plan of what you want to achieve that day, and how you’re going to get there. Without any sort of plan or goal, your energy will quickly drop and so will your horse’s. Remember, horses need a sense of achievement to keep them motivated too, and you can’t reach a goal that hasn’t been set! (However, remember to set realistic and achievable goals for you and your horse, otherwise frustration will set in).

Make sure you keep your energy levels high – if you’re dreading having to move a “lazy” or unenthusiastic horse forward (especially in this heat!), the horse will feel that. So don’t underestimate the power of high energy levels and a positive mindset in yourself. Make sure you’re enjoying the work, too.

The off-season is also a great time to fine-tune your own skills. Are you giving conflicting aids? Are your aids as clear and correct as they could be? Often working on your personal skills to give the horse clearer (and yet still gentle) aids will lift the horse’s motivation.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is to keep up the variety in your workout. Horses and people alike will get bored by doing the same things in the same order every day – mix it up! And try pick a different focus every day or every couple of days. Maybe work on laterals one day, and on transitions another day. Maybe one day all you do is long-and-low work. You can also introduce poles or other obstacles in various ways – not just trot poles, for example, but maybe an L-shape that the horse must navigate. You can make this narrower as the horse gets better at it. Make sure you’re giving your horse plenty of time when learning new things, though.

Nothing kills the horse’s motivation faster than constantly being over-challenged or feeling that it is failing at every new thing you’re trying to teach – it will frustrate you both.

It’s also important to give the horse some easy, fun days. If the horse is always associating the arena with hard work, both mentally and physically, it will eventually dread it. So maybe have a day where you let the horse go wherever it wants, all across the arena, and just let your horse explore and take you along for the ride. Depending on yours and your horse’s level of confidence and skill, you can do this in all gaits (please remember to be safe!).

Lastly, the off-season is a great time for trail rides. They’re a great way for both horse and rider to enjoy new environments and the beauty of being out and about. But make sure that you’re regularly giving your horse little challenges and asking it to concentrate on trail rides, too! Otherwise the horse will associate the arena with work, and trail rides with plodding along, and begin to dread the arena.

Happy Riding!



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