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.

 Tina Kaven

Tina Kaven

Do you listen to what your horse iscommunicating to you? Do you recognisehis methods of communication? Do you listen or is your approach simply, ‘Dowhat I tell you to and do it now!’ One of themost amazing things to witness is when ahorse and rider have the ability tocommunicate properly with each other.

If we don’t know the answers to our training questions we must be willing toseek them out for our own sake and for thesake of this animal that works so very hardto please us. It makes sense - we have tohave direction before we can give directionand that requires honesty, open mindednessand willingness to evaluate the situation. If wedecide we know the direction to go, we thenhave to think about the equipment(saddles, spurs, bits etc.) that we need andif we know how to use it. I’ve donecountless clinics all over the world and itnever ceases to amaze me how many people don't know how a bridle shouldhang in a horse’s mouth or how to select theright bit for what the they're trying toaccomplish.

If we're honest enough to ask for help, then need to know where to get it. Dowe look to the winners circle or do we carewhat goes on out in the warm up pen? Isproximity important or are we comfortableusing the internet for remote coachingsessions?

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

Last but not least, work out your continuing education programme. If you don’t have aplan, I recommend you educate yourself beforetrying to educate your horse. With properforethought and direction, anything ispossible.

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