Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 7/30/98; 2:00:00PM.

Training Strategies: Rider Motivation, Just Do It!

By Leslie Vilhauer, Cheney, WA

It's August folks! Do you know where your horses are? Are they still out in the pasture, getting larger everyday? Did you plan on getting that colt started this year, or were you going to finally get that mare to a show? Haven't done it yet? No? Well, time is cruisin' by, and unless you plan on riding in November when it's hailing sideways, you better pull your boots on and grab a halter today!

Motivation is a key component to success with your horse. Everyone has dreams about what they want to accomplish with their horses. Some want to be able to trail ride on summer evenings after work, while others want to make the Olympic team. For either dream to come true, one must GET ON THE HORSE! Yes, both trail riding and winning medals require actual RIDING!

Everyone looks dreamily at their horses and imagines great things, but the difference between imagining them and actually accomplishing them is the simple act of JUST DOING IT! You must learn to act on your ambitious ideas. Don't listen to the negative thoughts that say that it's too hot, or that you'd have to change clothes first, or you have no one to ride with. It's not that hot in the mornings and evenings, changing clothes takes about two seconds, and if you absolutely need someone to ride with, take the initiative and invite someone. Maybe your neighbor down a ways is lonely too and wishes she had someone to ride with.

Training yourself to be motivated is like training a horse. You wouldn't expect a horse who has had time off to just joyfully go leaping over a huge jump course. You might, however, bring him back into training by trotting over a few ground poles and maybe in a couple days popping over a little cross bar fence. So it is with you. Instead of expecting yourself to go tack up and take off down the trail after working a ten hour day, just start off slowly. Just catch your horse and brush him, comb his mane and tail, and clean out his hooves. You might even lead him over to a grassy spot and stand with him while he grazes. Then turn him back out or back into his stall and pat yourself on the back.

Does your tack need cleaning and you put off riding because you don't feel like scrubbing your saddle for an hour? Well, grab a dry rag and just wipe off the dust. At least it means you ACTUALLY TOUCHED YOUR SADDLE! It's these little steps that improve your motivation. You'll feel better about yourself and it will encourage you to do more. Maybe the next day you'll feel like tacking up and riding around the pasture at a lazy walk, or spraying a little saddle soap on the obvious spots on your tack. Or if you're not ready to ride, you might just wash your horse's tail while he grazes in his favorite grassy spot.

Does your horse intimidate you a little because he trots a little too fast or because he spooked at that tarp last time? Don't give up yet. You don't have to ride past the tarp, and you don't have to trot. Make it your goal to tack up, get on, and walk around for seven minutes. In fact, just sitting on a horse's back is therapeutic. Anyone who has ever taken time off and then swung a leg over and sat down in their saddle knows what I'm talking about. It's that "ahhh" feeling. Like you were born to fit in that saddle.

Finally, realize that you're not the only one who loses ambition occasionally. Even world class athletes admit that they don't always feel like playing everyday. But you must learn to DO IT ANYWAY! I promise, that even though the weight of that saddle that you have to drag out of the tack room almost brings you to tears, you will be rejuvenated and light in your step when you're finished because you've done what you love to do more than anything else - RIDE!


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