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Dear Dana: My horse and I aren’t improving together – help!

By DANA HOKANA - Horsetrader columnist - December 5th, 2013 - Q&A Dear Dana

Dear Dana: I ride my horse four days a week after work. I have only 45 minutes to ride her every day. She is doing pretty well but not progressing. I feel like I am having a good enough ride, but we aren’t really getting any better. My little issues stay the same. Every day I work on the walk, jog and the lope each way and the back up as well as the side pass. Any suggestions of how I can accelerate my horse’s learning or improving?

Dear Nicole: This is a good question and one that is so common in most people’s riding. People are trained to be methodical or to “go through the motions,” so to speak, and practice maneuvers. However, those maneuvers may not need work that day — and something else may take precedence.

I recommend you become very “mindful and discerning” and read those little issues that you mentioned. Deal with them until you “break through to the other,” like I call it. You are obviously not satisfied with your progress, so the way to see improvement in your horse is to fully break through to the other side every day that you ride — with whatever issue or maneuver that you are working on.

To be clear, decide exactly what those “little issues” are. Put them in order of priority and pick one to really dig in on. Don’t worry if you don’t do all of your other maneuvers, each and every day. You will be better off taking the one issue and working on that until you are truly feeling a breakthrough. Make a habit of paying attention to the details. Champions pay attention to details and fix them. If you can allow a little extra time that day to make sure you break through, then do so.

Just think: If your little issue is that he is bad in the face and won’t keep his head consistent, then it will affect every gait. That problem will keep showing up, with him lifting his head or pulling on the bit. If his little issue is that he gets a little mad off of your leg, that will show up in your lope off transition as well as every other gait. It is the little foxes that spoil the vine.

One of my biggest training secrets is to break through, or to go through to the other side in each and every situation. I have a saying and a DVD on this subject “The Secret to a Truly Willing Horse”.

1)   Teach them to say “yes.”
2)   Teach them to say “yes” willingly.
3)   Teach them to say “yes” willingly, with cadence.

I show you how to do this on this DVD. I hope this helps you. Have a great holiday season!

Do you have a question for Dana? Simply go to www.horsetrader.com and click on the “Dear Dana” section, then submit it! If your question is selected, you will be entered into a monthly drawing for a FREE “Winning Strides” DVD from Dana’s training video series.

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