Ride With a Plan

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

In the first part of my series about my clinic time with Buck this year, we discussed how to properly ride and teach progressions to your horse. We will continue on in the discussion today. As a short review, here are the principles discussed at this clinic.

Have a purpose.
Be precise.
Be consistent.
Be punctual.
If you’ve had to go to Plan B, stick with THAT ONE THING until Plan A works.
Use Progressions – they’re progressions for a reason.

I’d like to talk about making a plan for your horse. We will touch on the following with regards to making a plan: having a purpose, being precise, being consistent, and being punctual.

If you don’t have a plan, you may have trouble doing the things mentioned above. Everything you’d do with your horse would be random and disjointed, and may well cause confusion within your horse. Further, you don’t even need to be riding your horse to make a plan – you can make a plan while you handle him from the ground. For example, maybe you’re teaching your horse to back up from the weight of the lead rope — you don’t want to be right next to him to back him up. In our case it might come in handy if we’ve got to open a gate, or rope a cow and have our horse hold that cow while we doctor it. We need him to be quiet and responsive on the end of that lead rope.

Plan A is that he backs up quietly, with little effort on our part. Plan B would be that we have to do more. We might send a coil down our lead rope to hit him under the jaw, because asking nicely didn’t work. The goal being that Plan A works the first time, every time. But if you’re not purposeful in your action, precise in your meaning (and unemotional about it), consistent in how you ask — with less building to more, or punctual with going to Plan B, when Plan A fails, Plan A may only sporadically be what comes to fruition when you ask nicely.

The series of photos below, show Buck, working with a horse that was uncertain about his owner letting him onto the right side. He shows us how to be punctual, consistent, precise, reward the try, do less and get it to work with feel.









The goal for all our horses should be that we can get a lot accomplished with little effort on our part, because we’ve been purposeful, precise, consistent and punctual. When you’re riding your horse and he’s having trouble with one of his progressions, you wouldn’t move on to something more complex until he can nail the simple thing on the first try, every time. That’s not to say we might not be working on half a dozen things with him at once.

On a baby, we’d be working on teaching him lateral flexion with his feet still and with his hips disengaging. We’d be working both sides, and when the timing is right we’d be asking the shoulders to come through. So you could be doing those three things all the while working to get them better. You’d get him to get one thing good, and then move on to something else. Then you might go back and check out the first thing he got right to see if he remembers. Riding is a constant feedback loop — you’re checking in with your horse and he’ll tell you where he is.

Personally, I’ve struggled for many years with having a purpose, being precise, being consistent and being punctual. I feel like I’m just now at a place in my horsemanship journey, where I’ve the confidence to do what I need to do to have my horse become responsive. Horses don’t lolly-gag around when they’re doling out the “punishment” for not moving out of the way of the alpha gelding in the herd. But humans tend to nag the horse for the change, and that’s where I’ve been — until recently.


Riding my horse Dino, asking for a leg yield.

There’s your food for thought for the week: Be precise. Be consistent. Have a purpose. Be punctual.

Happy Trails and Happy Riding!

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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