Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do You Have a Plan When You Ride/Train Your Horse?

Someone posted a question similar to this in one of the online groups I follow.  People have asked me this before, but as I mostly lurk on this particular group, I didn't add my two cents.  But many other group members did comment.
To paraphrase, most people said they start with a plan in mind, but let the horse dictate what actually happens.  As I read the the replies, it started to occur to me that I USED to take this tack, but not anymore.
Let me explain...
When I train a horse, I have a plan with several components.  I have the Master Plan, which is the Training Scale.  I also have the "Plan of Attack", which takes into consideration the overall picture of the horse--his conformation and his personality.  Different horse-types require different focuses of the training scale at different times in their training.  Those are my general goals.
Then I have more specific goals, based on the long term goals--such as, a general timeline for progression (usually month to month), and this part of the plan is the most flexible, even after the idea is set.  The reason is that I initiate this timeline on a "best-case scenario", which doesn't take into consideration any hiccups (lameness, sickness, unanticipated weaknesses that need more time at a certain point, etc.).  The timeline usually gets longer, as we take into account any interruption, unforseen circumstances, or slow-down in the training.
Then we have the benchmark plan.....that is specific points of progression (apart from the timeline), and is used for competition purposes. Such as, as the purpose and elements of "Training Level" get easy for the horse, we should already be flowing into the concepts of "First Level" (where impulsion is introduced), such as the lengthening of the trot and canter. Then as all the elements of First Level are becoming easier, begin to introduce the notion of collection through some steps of the shoulder-in and other more sophisticated lateral work, and so on.
And to answer the question of a daily plan, yes, I do have a plan for each ride.  And I expect to be able to execute the elements of my plan.  If the horse is dictating something other than I have planned on a regular basis, then I believe the failure is mine!
If I don't "get to" the elements of the plan I lay out for the day, I have to wonder--"is my plan unrealistic"? Or, "do I really understand the training scale"? Or, "am I skipping ahead of where my horse truly is in its training"?
I believe that if I am not able to execute my plan for the training session at least 98% of the time, then there is something wrong with the master plan, or of my execution of the master plan, plan of attack, or timeline (the big picture).  If you are not able to execute the daily plan, it is just a symptom of a bigger problem in your training.

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