Let’s face it: retraining a standardbred can be tricky!
When you’re working with an animal who was bred and trained to do a job which is very different to what you’re asking of them as a riding horse, moments of confusion are to be expected.
Even though you can understand why your horse may be struggling, this doesn’t make facing challenges any easier.
When things keep going wrong in our standardbred retraining journeys, we riders often become really hard on ourselves, or lose faith that we’re ever going to move past problems.
Having faced these moments many times over the past two decades working with this incredibly quirky breed of horse, here are the top 3 things I do as a profesional standardbred retrainer to ensure I don’t get bogged down in overwhelm and keep trotting on towards my standardbred dreams….
1. Take a breather – hit ‘pause’ in your standardbred retraining journey
Please know, it’s ok to take a little headspace and time away from your horse if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes standardbred retraining challenges can seem really daunting and as though you’re never going to conquer them, until you take a step back to assess things from a ‘big picture’ view.
Time away from your horse (or even just swapping working your horse for hanging out with them) will stop you from going into battle without a plan.
You can use your time out of the saddle to think about why your standardbred may be behaving or reacting the way they are and to strategise some options for working through retraining challenges.
This process helps to transform your mindset from hopelessness, to feeling in control and knowing what you can try next!
2. Pivot when you’re feeling overwhelmed
Rather than going over and over the same standardbred retraining problem and growing in frustration each time you fail to make a breakthrough, sometimes a better tact is to stop and do something completely different for a while.
For example, if I’m struggling with a dressage movement and it’s sucking the fun out of ride time, I swap the arena for the trails and go exploring instead!
If my standardbred keeps pacing under saddle and is becoming more and more confused, I’ll stow my saddle in the shed for a week or two and focus on some groundwork to help my horse to find their balance, coordination and confidence without me complicating things.
Mixing things up can bring a refreshing little ‘reset’ to the retraining process.
Rather than getting so upset that you end up in the ‘give up zone’, pivoting to a different skill for a while ensures you’ll still be inspired to continue to go out and spend quality time with your horse.
You can then come back and reapproach that tricky skill again at a later point, by which time you’ll have chalked up a few more rides and positive experiences under your belt!
3. Self-reflect to avoid overwhelm
Sometimes a little self-reflection can bring some awesome perspective and a bit of a reality check.
I like to spend some time thinking over and acknowledging the things I can do now with my standardbred which I couldn’t last week, or last month, or a year ago.
When things aren’t going right, it can be so great for your mindset to remember all of those other little challenges you once struggled with, that you can now do well.
And to treat the current problem as though it’s just another hurdle you’ll be able to look back on in the future.
Also, focusing on the awesome moments you’ve shared with your standy will help you value the connection you share with your horse.
This little trip down memory lane can leave you feeling incredibly positive about continuing on and working through this sticky patch together, as a team.
*If you’re looking for a beautiful place to jot down your standardbred milestones and the special moments you want to remember forever, check out our Standardbred Journals by clicking here*
4. Talk it out with people who understand standardbred retraining
Back when I first started out retraining standardbreds I didn’t have anyone in my world who understood this special, but often quirky breed.
This meant I had to face every little challenge on my own.
I learned some of the best lessons as a horseperson throughout this process, but it was certainly exhaustive and the hardest road to success with my standardbred.
Fortunately, I have formed many connections in my adult life with people who not only understand how awesome standardbreds are, but are there to lend me support and advice when I need it.
But I know that, even today with the internet and a LOT more people owning standies, not everyone happens to have people around them who understand or share a love for standardbreds.
And it can be hard to make connections with likeminded standardbred owners when you’re new to the breed, or coming back/getting into horses as an adult, or living remotely.
Knowing this, I’ve made it my mission here at Raising the Standards to ensure no standardbred owner ever has to go it alone. Because I have stood in those boots and know just how darn overwhelming it can feel.
Chatting to other standardbred owners is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to completely transform your experiences and to shift your mindset from worrying about all the things which are going wrong to appreciating all of your ‘little wins’ along the way.
Althought I’ve added this last point as a bonus, I believe that asking for advice, learning, sharing with others and finding a tribe of people who just ‘get it’ and are there to support you along your standardbred retraining journey is the best way to kick feelings of overwhelm to the curb.
If you’re struggling with overwhelm I invite you to meet our beautiful ‘herd’ of standardbred owners, via our Online Standardbred Club.
In this program you’ll learn so much helpful standardbred retraining and equine health information, presented by some of Australia’s leading professionals. You’ll also be able to connect with our global community of standardbred owners.
It’s a wonderfully welcoming, supportive, inspiring group – we look forward to ‘meeting’ you and becoming your standardbred cheer squad! Learn more by clicking here
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