Like some of my students, you might economize by keeping your horses at home and hauling in for a weekly lesson. Obviously, what my students do outside of my barn isn't under my direct control. But it's my responsibility as a teacher?and my wish?to keep things safe, doable and productive so that when you come back to me next week, you and your horse are still in good shape.
I guide such a student with a fairly detailed weekly training schedule based on homework (the skills she needs to work on), lifestyle (it's unrealistic to expect most students, mothers and 9-to-5ers to ride every day) and the five-day work week I believe is ideal for horses. (He doesn't want to be ridden every single day; and although we all want him fit, strong and healthy, we don't want him SO fit?especially if he's a Thoroughbred?that he's hard to handle.)
Here's a typical week:
Saturday is lesson day.
Sunday is a serious flat day when my student reviews the exercises we worked through on Saturday. That doesn't mean she rides her horse into oblivion. She warms up for five or 10 minutes, does serious exercises for 20 or 30 minutes, then leaves the arena, walks up and down the driveway or field for five minutes and she's done.
Monday she mucks out, feeds and turns out, but otherwise leaves her horse alone so he can just hang out and be a horse. As a result, on ?
Tuesday he may be fresh after his layoff, so this is not a serious day for flatting. She just rides to get him out and have some fun hacking through the woods, down the trails and around the barn.
Wednesday is another serious flatting day. But again?I'm not a believer in riding the horse forever?I tell her she's to set a period of time, work him and then it's over.
Thursday is her day to jump at home. I give her a course diagram with dimensions, heights and distances that she can set up; but this assumes she'll be supervised by an instructor, parent or friend?I don't like anybody to jump alone. If she has no supervision, she can do all the flatwork and set up the jumping exercises or courses with poles on the ground.
Friday is another layoff day unless she thinks her horse will be too fresh for Saturday (which, again, is lesson day); if she does, she can tweak the schedule. None of it is written in stone except that her horse ends up with two days being turned out, two days jumping (one with me during the lesson), two days flatting seriously and one day hacking.
What about a horse-show week? Assuming show day is Saturday, I make sure my student peaks on that Saturday, as she would for her Saturday lesson. Thursday will become her lesson day, two days before the show. Friday can be a light flatwork day and the day she'll trim her horse and prepare her equipment. The rest of the schedule remains the same.
Steven Weiss started his hunter/jumper career riding as a Junior at legendary trainer George Morris's Hunterdon stables in New Jersey. Under George's tutelage, he finished second in the AHSA Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals. He went on to run Ri-Arm Farm, a large commercial training business, with Mark Leone for 18 years. Six years ago, he signed on as the private trainer for Staysail Farm in North Salem, New York, where he coached rider Katie Dinan to multiple successes. This spring, he and trainer Frank Madden combined their clientele and staff to join forces at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York, where they are running a show and training business.
Excerpted from "The Power of Positive Teaching" in the September 2003 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. To read more from Steve Weiss, see his article "Better Distances with the Medium Pace" in the July 2011 issue.