Many riders write in to Raising the Standards and confess that they ride their standardbred far less than they want to.
And we so get it…
Life is hectic and time really can slip away.
We make plans to go and see our standardbred.
We break plans to go and see our standardbred just as easily.
“I’ll go for a ride tomorrow” becomes “I’m really tired; I’ll go on the weekend instead.”
Then the weekend comes and goes.
The week flies by.
Then a fortnight.
Soon, it’s been a long time between rides.
It’s really easy to fall into a trap of ‘all or nothing horsemanship’; where you figure if you can’t make time to go and ride, you won’t bother at all.
The problem with this is that consistency is a really important aspect of standardbred retraining.
Carving out regular time to spend with your standardbred can have some incredible benefits to both you and your horse’s development.
Why consistency is so important to standardbreds
Many of our standardbreds will have been raised in a stable environment, where everything runs like clockwork.
Horses are fed morning and night at the same time (and stablehands dare not be more 5 minutes late 😤)
Exercised at the same time every day.
Everything is familiar and on runs on schedule.
Horses get a lot of comfort from the predicatability of knowing what’s coming next.
Becoming a riding horse brings about a huge amount of change for a retired harness racehorse.
There are many new skills your standardbred must learn during retraining. It can be a LOT to process.
Working with your standardbred regularly leaves less gaps between sessions for your horse to forget new skills.
If, for example, you teach your horse a new skill on a Wednesday and you don’t get back out to visit them until two weeks later, they may need remedial work at the start of the session to go back over and remember what they learned last time!
But if you work your horse on the Wednesday and get back out again on the Friday, the skill should still be quite fresh in their mind. This would mean you could do a quick brush-up and then moving onto the next thing!
Regular workouts allow progress in your standardbred retraining to happen much more consistenly and quickly.
Plus, every single touch point your standardbred has with you is like added a new ‘file’ in their ‘filing cabinet’ of life experiences.
If you aim to fill your standardbred’s filing cabinet with many positive riding and horsemanship experiences, those old racing files are pushed further and further back in the horse’s memory.
This plays into the idea of ‘practice makes perfect’.
Some examples of how consistency helps with standardbred retraining:
- Getting your standardbred to stop pacing, because trotting is part of their new, familiar routine!
- Teaching a standardbred to canter more naturally, because they’ve had plenty of recent experience with this gait through specialised groundwork training.
- Being able to enjoy a big day of trail riding with friends, because your horse is conditioned and fit from regular work.
- Your standardbred begins to trust you and relax more, due to all of the regular time you’re spending with them.
Why consistency is important to standardbred riders
Just like our horses, we humans also perform well when we’re ‘in the zone’.
When you fall out of routine with your riding, you can start to worry that your standardbred might misbehave after the break.
Or that if you’ve lost fitness you won’t stick in the saddle if something goes wrong.
Or that those little problems you encountered during your last ride (which you’ve been quietly worried about…and perhaps avoiding) will be even worse then next time you ride.
So many negative thoughts can start to swirl in your mind 🤯
If this sounds like what you’ve been experiencing, I want you to know that this is really normal.
In fact, one of the most common concerns standardbred owners reach out to Raising the Standards for support with is loss of confidence.
When riders have been out of the saddle for an extended period of time, swinging back into action can seem quite daunting.
But when we find our rhythm again and have a few positive horse experiences, things seem much more managable.
Consistency grows confidence.
Getting back into the saddle can be really tough to actually do after a break.
Carving out regular time to get out to visit your horse, let alone ride them, can seem like such an impossible juggle with life’s many demands.
One of our Online Standardbred Club members recently wrote in, facing this exact stress.
She explained that she’d taken on a new job and the increase in work hours had limited her ability to get out to the paddocks.
Her horse had always been very tense and tended to misbehave in the arena.
Overall, she was feeling very apprehensive about having to bring her horse into work after time off, worried about him acting out in the arena and unsure how on earth she was going to find the time to even pickup where she left off!
I created a video coaching and talked her through a little step-by-step plan she could follow to find her mojo again and make a safe transition back into riding life.
If you’d like to watch this coaching, please leave your email address in the box below and I’ll send you the link to the video:
Taking a ’10 minutes a day’ approach to standardbred retraining
The plan I set out for the Online Standardbred Club member I just spoke about above is the exact same strategy I’ve used to step myself back into the saddle after two rough pregancies/births and five years of very little riding.
As we discuss in detail in our 30 Days to Standardbred Success course (relaunching soon – please keep an eye on our Programs page for updates), trying to go from riding occasionally to every day is the horse equivalent of ‘crash dieting’.
Sure, you might manage this for a week or two, but chances are you’ll fall back into old habits unless you have a plan behind you.
A great way to get back into a regular horse routine is to start by setting short sessions in the paddocks.
It seems so much more achievebale than trying to find big slabs of time in your schedule.
Groundwork and connection-building exercises are super fun and great to do when you don’t have time to ride.
By doing groundwork activities you’ll get a buzz from experiencing ‘little wins’ in your standardbred retraining journey. This will naturally motivate you to look forward and plan your next horse session!
It’s a bit like a snowball effect, where one positive session with your standardbred inspires you to look forward to the next and so on.
Activities you can do with your standardbred in 10 minutes:
- Taking your horse for a walk to explore new areas of the property
- Breath syncing
- In-hand training
- Feeling your horse’s body for swelling, reactivity to pressure and inconsistencies you may miss during a quick brush
- Grooming and ‘beautifying’ manes and tails
- Trick training
- In-hand training
- De-sensitising exercises
For more ideas of groundwork activities you can do with your standardbred, plus specific exercises to help your standardbred to become a strong, fit and supple riding partner, please visit our Standardbred Groundwork Workshop information page
The idea is to get yourself into a routine where you regularly spend time with your horse.
Where the enjoyment flows and inspires you to want to be out with your standardbred more.
Remember: small steps can lead to big changes!
And taking action to make those small steps can feel oh-so great and bring a real sense of achievement (and some standardbred retraining successes!)