It's The Thought That Counts

The road to winning isn’t what we thought, writes AQHA Professional Horsewoman and judge Tina Kaven As I write this article, I am communicating (via text message) with a young lady in Iowa. I'm coaching her from Texas in my living room. How can I possibly help her when I am thousands of miles away? I’m not on horseback, I can’t even see her, so how can I help? The power of coaching is all in the mind.

All of our actions begin in our brain as a thought. Deep within us is the beginning and the end of what our ride, training, and show classes look like. We can't control how our horses will respond, the ability of a horse or how the judge will place us. That said, what we can control is much more than any of us realise.

How many of us simply go to the barn and get riding? We don’t think through what we need to do to be successful; what issues need addressing that day or how we should tackle recurring problems. We don’t think about what adjustments we need to make in our riding or how we can communicate better with our horse. We simply go and take action and the returns are often as random as our tactics.

When we take a thoughtful and mindful attitude with our riding, we are more aware of what we are communicating to our horse and what they are communicating to us. That then enables us to make conscious decisions about what is the best approach and ask ourselves if we have the answers to all our training questions or whether we need to look for some guidance.


western pleasure

Do you listen to what your horse is communicating to you? Do you recognise his methods of communication? Do you listen or is your approach simply, ‘Do what I tell you to and do it now!’ One of the most amazing things to witness is when a horse and rider have the ability to communicate properly with each other.

 If we don’t know the answers to our training questions we must be willing to seek them out for our own sake and for the sake of this animal that works so very hard to please us. It makes sense - we have to have direction before we can give direction and that requires honesty, open mindedness and willingness to evaluate the situation. If we decide we know the direction to go, we then have to think about the equipment (saddles, spurs, bits etc.) that we need and if we know how to use it. I’ve done countless clinics all over the world and it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't know how a bridle should hang in a horse’s mouth or how to select the right bit for what the they're trying to accomplish.

 If we're honest enough to ask for help, then need to know where to get it. Do we look to the winners circle or do we care what goes on out in the warm up pen? Is proximity important or are we comfortable using the internet for remote coaching sessions?

 We need to take a good look at our riding, our training and our showing and ask if we are truly doing the best we can to ensure the best result. In this age we want things ‘now’ but some things require more research. Maybe that ‘head tosser’ has an underlying problem? As I’ve frequently seen, the bit is either the wrong type for what the rider wants to accomplish or it isn’t fitted properly.

Last but not least, work out your continuing education programme. If you don’t have a plan, I recommend you educate yourself before trying to educate your horse. With proper forethought and direction, anything is possible.

Oh yes, and by the way, the little girl in Iowa that I’m coaching via text message, videos and email - yesterday she was bucked off of her horse in the show ring and couldn’t bring herself to ride the rest of the show. Today, with some serious virtual coaching, she was second in her trail class out of nine! As I said, success works very differently than we thought; especially when we really start to think about it.

Tina Kaven is a is an AQHA Professional Horseman and judge, and has won numerous Congress and World Championship titles. She is also a member of the NSBA Hall of Fame. Visit her website here.