My grandparents were married for over 60 years, and my grandma’s golden rule was “To never go to sleep angry”.
The reasoning was of course that she wanted to finish each day with positive emotions, in order to wake up feeling happy and ready to start the new day ;).
If you want to establish a long and healthy relationship with your horse, this rule can be applied in a new way, and I say “Always finish your training on a high!”
What does that mean?
Some days you come out into the arena, and from start to finish you feel that your horse is with you, and listening to you, and on these days finishing on a high is easy.
“Always finish your training on a high!”
On the days where you are feeling less capable, or having trouble with a particular movement, always try to finish that movement, and the training session, with something you accomplished and executed well!
For example, if I am working on the half pass, and I am just not getting it how I would like it, finish that work with a very well executed leg yield, and then reward the horse.
If you are having a day where you feel you cannot achieve anything you had set your mind to, finish on something you know you both do really well, and congratulate your horse.
When you leave the arena you want both you and your horse to think, well I did that really well, even if the “that” was not the difficult exercise you had been working on.
If you try to do the perfect canter pirouette, and you end up in a big mess, and your horse gets stiff or takes over, and you keep trying to do it and in the end you just give up, you will leave the arena A, feeling like you are a failure, and B with a horse that will remember that this dressage stuff is a whole lot of hard work.
If you know the canter pirouette is not yet there, finish that series of exercises with 4 strides of on the spot collected canter, and reward your horse for his brilliance.
He will remember how much fun it was to collect the canter, and next time you ask for more, who knows he might be so proud of himself, he will give you the full pirouette.
I’ve seen riders who not only finish on a low note in the training, but then also leave the stable in a bad mood and don’t say goodbye to their horse.
One of the truly undefined yet powerful aspects of dressage is the psychological link between horse and rider, and if you don’t foster that, you can’t expect greatest in the arena.
Even if you had a ride that was not your best and you are late for work, or feeling tired, or hungry, take two seconds to just say thank you to your horse, pat him, give him a carrot or two.
It may seem simple, but my grandma was onto something, and if when you leave your horse, you pass on good energies, loving thoughts, praise and gratefulness, he will be that much happier to see you tomorrow 😉 .