Sunday, June 21, 2015

Backsliding (Regression)

     Sometimes horse just go backwards in their training.  If it happens to you here are some things to consider.   Horses, like some people, don’t learn on an even trajectory.  There are many ups and downs and plateaus. 
     After a horse has regressed and then proceeded to “relearn” something, the horse will usually be more solid in his learning or mastering of a maneuver etc.  I’ve experienced this first hand many, many times but it’s actually been proven in laboratory tests too – with mice though, not horses – but the proof is in the results!   When horses come back after a regression they often exhibit more confidence.  Many times even seeming “happier” with the work they are asked to do. 
     I think it’s important to figure out what caused the horse to regress in the first place.  Sometimes it’s as simple as they need a break from hard work.  Other times it can happen after a long show or tough competition where the work was demanding and maybe a little over their comfort zone.  In some cases I change up their work for a while and then go back to the “old” work and viola!, we have good results.  In other cases I may decide that more of a change is needed and I’ll even back down on their bit, or spurs or whatever’s needed to get them back to a level they’re confident at, then we patiently work our way back up from there.
     Just break things down to a level the horse is confident in and be patient.  And, more likely than not, he will be a better trained horse than before the regression.   I can’t say it enough though; the most important thing here is to be patient, to not get frustrated with the backwards step.  Just calmly go back through the work, retraining patiently as you go, and you’ll be surprised how fast you’ll be back where you want to be.
     Horses learn by repetition, and they learn by making mistakes.  They learn in an uneven pattern but they will always go forward if you take the time to help them through whatever difficulty they are having.  Remember: it’s all about building confidence!  Talk to you next week, JD