Hey everyone! Today’s post is a special one because TODAY I am sharing with you an interview that I did with my trainer, Gary. Gary has taught me lessons and has been my mentor for about a year and a half and I have learned SO much! I would like to tell you a bit about Gary… Gary is co-owner with his wife Marion of Millar Venture Arabians,, so most of the horses at his farm are Arabians. Gary also started the Arabian Horse Reading Literacy Project which basically aims to teach kids to learn and love to read through the use of horses. I have had the chance to volunteer at his programs and it has been incredible to see the impact the horses have had on the kids. I have also learned through watching the kids it is pretty much impossible not to smile around horses. 🙂 Gary continues to teach me so much; therefore, I wanted to share some of his wisdom with my readers. Without further adieu, let’s get into the interview. Enjoy!
What is your best advice to all riders?
Have fun with your horse, enjoy the relationship you develop with your horse and explore all the different things you can do together. A well trained horse is capable of participating in all kinds of activities. Many people get hooked on competitions … shows and showing. Shows can be fun and can provide an opportunity to set some performance goals within yourself and your horse. The unfortunate thing about shows is that the competition can be mentally hard on riders and they can make it hard on the horse. If your horse is not competitive in a certain event that you want to participate in, it can be frustrating for the rider and begin to affect the positive relationship you have with your horse. So often I see the horse becomes merely an object of a riders desire to compete and win. Once the winning stops the rider will discard the horse and look for the next horse which will be more competitive. Never forget that your horse is a living being who cares as much about you as you care for it. When you take on ownership of a horse, you are taking on a commitment to care for and provide for that animal through thick and thin … not just as long as you are satisfied with how things are going.
The very best advice I could give to any and all riders, regardless of your preferred equine activity, is to take advantage of the great outdoors and go on nice long trail rides. It is good for a horse and it is very good for a rider. Spending time together (and with friends) out in nature just relaxing down the trail is good for mind and body. You might do a little jumping over trees, a bit of trotting and maybe even a canter, but the best speed … mosey … slow and easy. Take in the scenery, breath in the clean air and enjoy being with your horse in nature. I can assure you your horse will feel as relaxed as you and appreciate the ride, maybe even more than you do.
When working with young horses, what is the best thing to do to be successful?
Working with young horses is something that’s best done by more experienced riders and “horsemen.” When working with young horses you are laying the foundation of their future as a riding horse. There is not much room for error. It is so important to know what you are doing. With horse training there is no instruction manual. No step by step process. There are some important things every horse must learn but all horses are different and will process new ideas differently. When working with the younger horses it is important to make sure every lesson ends on a positive note. This can be difficult for the less experienced horse person. Not every lesson is going to feel productive. If the horse gives you push back and you don’t know what to do, and do something that frightens or causes the horse pain, the horse is not likely to forget that experience. And, a horse never forgets. When experiencing pain or fear the horse will always try to protect themselves. It is the “fight or flight “ reaction.
I do understand that many riders dream of someday, training their own young horse, and grow together. To be sure you are successful while living out your dream and end up with the very best trained horse, get the help of an experienced horseman … a mentor. They can help you deal with the issues as they may arise and help you make sure the horse understands what you are teaching. They can guide you about what to do in certain situations where you may not be all that comfortable about the right thing to do. That mentor can help ensure that neither you or your horse gets hurt and the training is done correctly and effectively. There can still be plenty of time for you to work with your young horse, on your own, on things he has already be taught. Great learning for you.
Unfortunately, when a young horse and an inexperienced horse person have issues it is often the rider who gets hurt. When the rider gets hurt, it will be the horse that takes the blame because now the horse may be considered unsafe, even though they were just trying to protect themselves in a stressful situation. There is a saying … green rider + green horse = black and blue rider. Get help and work someone with experience … save yourself and your young horse heartache and grief.
What is the most important thing you have learned while being around horses?
The most important thing I have learned while being around horses is to listen. When I say listen I mean listening with ears, eyes and intuition. Horses are communicating with us all the time. When you learn to really listen you will enjoy a deeper more satisfying relationship with your horse and you will even even find yourself becoming more intuitive about what your horse is thinking and feeling. Learning to be a good listener has helped me develop stronger relationships with my horses and has strengthened the connection I have with them.
What advice would you give to a rider who wants to get into dressage?
I would say “good for you.” Dressage means “training.” We can all use training. Dressage training will help a rider develop proper biomechanics, a good seat and position, as well as provide a progressive methodology for growth and development for both horse and rider. As one develops and improves there are “tests” or riding patterns of increasing difficulty for horse and rider to challenge themselves. Once a certain level is attained you can go on to the next level of increasing challenges. Dressage can be excellent for both english and western riders who wish to develop proper riding techniques and help their horses improve along with themselves.
What is a tip to becoming less tense while you are riding?
When we talk about tension while riding we are really talking about fear. Tension is caused by fear. As we deal with the fear and become successful at finding ways to move out of our comfort zone the tension will diminish. There are no quick fixes. It takes time, courage and persistence. To deal with the fear it is important you are dealing with someone on the ground you trust. They will be able to guide you along and help you take the baby steps so important to moving forward. That person will guide you out of your comfort zone and be successful with the small victories. Ones desire and persistence to lose the fear and tension is critical to moving past the issues we have. It is hard and you really have to want to do it. To challenge yourself; to set realistic goals ; to pick yourself up when things don’t go as planned and give it another try.
Something that will help any rider dealing with tension is breathing. Often we hold our breath when riding and we don’t even realize we are doing it. This breath holding causes the tension to build and the horse certainly feels the tension and responds to the what he feels. Simple breathing exercises can be effective. Every few minutes I will have a rider stop for a “HooGa” moment. A “HooGa moment” is my own “millarism” for stop, breathe and pay attention to what your horse is doing. HooGa means …inhale to the count of four, hold for a count to two, then exhale to a count of eight. All the while the rider is being aware (listening) of how their horse is processing the relaxation moment. The horse might chew or sigh (a sign the horse is relaxing along with the rider). The horse’s ears may be active as he feels the energy of the rider change. Repeat this 4 times. This simple breathing exercise helps the rider release tension and get more in touch with the horse. Then back to work. Over time, this exercise will help tension and fear dissipate and make it easier for the rider to relax.
I hope that you enjoyed this interview and found Gary’s knowledegable advice helpful! Until next time… don’t forget to hug your horse!
What is the best advice you have ever received?