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You show up to the barn with only 15 minutes until your lesson starts. You are still frustrated over a conversation that didn’t go well at work, plus you didn’t have time to cook dinner before going out to the barn…

You rush to get your horse out of the field. He doesn’t seem to want to be caught, only adding to your frustration. When you get into the barn and start to hastily brush him and throw your saddle on he tosses his head and dances but your eyes are on the clock.

Finally, you get in the arena, only 10 minutes after your lesson was supposed to start but your horse seems to have a different idea about how your ride is going to go.

Does this sound familiar?

Watch the video below to learn more about how your pre-ride routine could be ruining your ride and how you can slow down for a better ride.



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50 Responses

  1. Hi. I have started to let my chosen horse for that day say hallo (sniff or other way) to me first before i do anything. I know this had helped me to calme down.
    Thanks for all good advise.
    Hope that my written english is understandabel.
    Karin.

  2. Thank you for the reminder. I learned this the hard way! I was new to having my own horse – a young OTTB, very sensitive to boot. It took awhile to have the epiphany that my rushing to tack up and make my lesson was affecting him negatively.

  3. Hi Callie,
    Thanks for these reminders. I don’t own a horse but I can relate. One time I ran to the barn on my lunch. I was in a hurry and all stressed out. I noticed the worker sweeping in the sunshine and I thought about her quality of life. Seems the people who pay to be at the barn and those who are paid to be at the barn are both enjoying the same environment. In any case we all need to slow down and soak in the healing horses and nature bring. We can take the same approach when we get home from work or the barn. We can approach our spouse and our children with the same attention and care we give to our horses. We can appreciate their unique needs and listen better so we can be equal partners and enjoy the ride together. Thanks again for the wonderful work you do and the ripple affect it has.

    1. Great point Angela! I think it is a great lesson for anyone who handles horses!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. Clayton Barbeau (Sp?) said at a work shop one time these two things that have stuck with me for years and years:
    “Thou Shalt NOT “Should” thyself today”
    and my favorite: “Be DOING what it IS that you are DOING”.
    Horses and other relationships are such a great reminder of these two things any moment we choose to actually sink into it….right now.
    This is such a great reminder Callie-thanks!

    1. I was taught to slow down and take my time around horses right from the beginning. I will arrive 1 hour before a scheduled hack out with friends, for example, just to be able to spend that time with my horse in a calm attentive way while I groom and tack up. I think it shows respect for the horse not to be rushing and scattered in your mind when you are in their company. And I think the horses definitely notice! Thanks, Callie for addressing this! Happy trails everyone!

  5. I always do some quiet ground work. ie walking, and walking over poles. and slowly doing up the cinch. it is 10 minutes that really makes a difference. then always get on and do some more relaxed walking. most horses can feel when a person in in a hurry and it can cause them to worry that something is not OK.

    1. It is amazing what just 10 minutes before a ride can do, thanks for sharing Joanne!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. I don’t listen to the news anymore on the way to the barn. Just music I like. At the barn, I never rush the process. I consider it all part of my riding experience. But I am lucky, I retired last year and this is part of my “golden years.”

  7. Hi Callie,
    Going to the riding-school is: already looking forward to the day that I have my lesson.
    I arrive one whole hour before, so that I can groom the horse, clean its feet, go to the toilet once more, put the saddle on, cap on, headgear, and walk around the indoor-ground for 2 minutes until the instructor arrives. Afterwards I help with one or two ponies, if children ask for my help, drink tea and eat a sandwich and go back home thinking of how the lesson went and at home writing it down. It all adds to the pleasure.
    Once, 2 years ago, was I 10 minutes late in the lesson, and that day I fell off the horse. So I learned the hard way to always to take my time, there is enough.

  8. I’ve always groomed my horse before I tack up… Its a full groom from picking hooves to treating any new rubs or bumps… Then I do at least five to ten minutes of work in hand, from lateral work to lunging no to wear them down but rather to notice any thing off in how they are moving and to get them into a long & low way of going… It takes time but I ride hot horses, both they & I need the routine & attention

  9. I love it when my horses come running to the gate as if asking, “what fun thing does my person have planned for us today?” I always pet and stroke their necks and ask how is your day going? while we are walking to the barn. I usually answer for them but I always talk slowly and then start grooming. While brushing, I usually will hum “Amazing Grace”. Quite often my horses will doze off while I am brushing. I am lucky to be retired and love spending the afternoons with my two quarter horses. I think they like it too!

  10. I love to call out to my horses and get a friendly nicker back.
    Then I talk to them when I get close. They also like their heads and neck stroked.
    I also blow slowly into their nostrils. All this before I put a halter on and walk
    back to the barn side by side. They are always eager to come with me.

  11. I was taught the less is more. If I don’t have the appropriate amount of time to catch, groom and ride my horse then I will change my plans. Maye it is just time with him in the field or catch and a walk or catch, walk and groom and no ride today . If I can’t do it all, I won’t even try to squeeze it all in. It is about respect for my horse and respect for my mind and body at that time. It is quality not quantity of time.

    1. That is a great way to handle the situation! It is better to just not rush at all 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  12. When I walk out in the pasture get Luke he is usually eating hay. I’ll call & whistle to him. In about 15 seconds he will look up & go back to get a few more bites of hay. Once I’m about 50 feet from him he begins to walk to me. I stop & wait for him. He will put his head down to allow me to put on his halter. Then he gets a few rubs & more kind words. I use to have to take treats with me to get him. In two weeks time we are down to a few treats laying in the grass after we are out of the pasture.

  13. On the day of my weekly hack and I try to decide before I head out what aspect for improvement I will concentrate today. I have a 45 minute drive to the stables for my weekly hack. I don’t listen to the radio but take notice of the countryside, the sea, the sky etc. on the way. Last week saw a hare crossing the road and the first primroses of the year. By the time I get to the stables I feel relaxed and excited about riding again. I always aim to get to the stables 30 minutes in advance so that I can have time to talk to my school horse before we go out & say hello to the other horses in the stables.

  14. Since taking the Pure Liberty course, I now walk to the gelding field at a slower pace, toward my horse, and stop before I get to him, looking all around to assure him I am looking out for his safety. After a minute or two, I approach to halter him. Many times I don’t get that far as my horse will often approach me. Those few minutes make a big difference in bonding.

  15. I don’t actually have this problem because I vehemently defend my horsey time and am never rushed. I get to the barn at least an hour ahead of time. I have a huge saddle pad collection and I put effort into what pad I will use and what I will wear to match my horse. I was taught a good turnout is respectful to the trainer, so I always look polished and matchy matchy for my lesson. My horse loves being groomed and I honestly think she knows she’s a fashion horse because people stop to ooh and ahhh at her LOL! Because I am so meticulous about our attire and presentation, this enables me to spend lots of time with her and helps center me.

  16. I normally pull take a few minutes to relax then take my shoes off and put my riding boots on. I do take the long way to the barn to drop off my helmet then I walk up to the pasture to get Star, most of the time she sees me walking up and she meets me at the gate lowers her head so I can get her halter on I give her a few rubs and tell her how pretty and shes a good girl. I take about 15mins grooming she loves getting groomed and I also like grooming her gives us a little time to read each other and help relax a little more. Then we walk side by side up to the arena.

  17. Loved your commonsense advice….now that I am retired and have the time makes me aware of how things were when I always had a time slot…..never again!..My horses really appreciate a more relaxed approach and show me their real personalities.Awesome.

  18. I can’t imagine rushing through getting ready. I LOVE my pre-ride horsy time! I always let her come in and eat for 15-20 min while I get our tack ready. I’ll brush her while she’s munching. Then we always take our time getting ready. We walk around the arena and check things out and do some light ground work before I even get on. Then we do at least 10 min of walking. I keep my feet out of the stirrups for most of that time to stretch my legs and hips.

    1. Great way to take your time getting into the tack! Those moments are way more valuable 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Callie: you have taught me/us so much about horsemanship. Thank you for pointing out human tendencies to be so time driven. You gave me the example of what just hanging out with my horses can look like. I have a camp chair in my barn and can take it out to the pasture for a bit of quiet communication sun time down time and be and listen to my equines crop grass. No better music than that.

    1. I think I have some wonderful photos of you doing just that in a certain field in Costa Rica Lindsay! Such a joy to have you in our community 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. Hi Callie, I sing to my horse, Fergus! I did notice I was rushing and made a n effort to get to the barn earlier so I had time to be in the moment and enjoy my pre-ride and tack up without rushing. Since then, I have taken to sing as we walk together to the arena and around the arena, since we are checking for “scary, haven’t seen that since yesterday” things. Fergus doesn’t judge just listens and I believe he enjoys it. I enjoy your videos! Thanks!

    1. I’m glad to hear you have been able to slow down, signing can be a great way to manage nerves too 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  21. I’ve been guilty of rushing too! Now that I’m semi-retired, I have a bit more flexibility with my time and it is soooo much more productive. Slow is better. Sometimes I go out to the field or paddock and just call my horse. If he comes, great, if not I pet the other horses and then saunter up to him. Give him scratches and then go back to the barn to get his halter and lead. It makes a tremendous difference and helps me chill out as well. I let him have a bit of hay while we are grooming, and then leave him alone to finish the hay while I get the tack ready. Then we saddle up. I do some ground work first; lots of praise and scratches, take an unhurried approach to the mounting block…and then we are ready to ride. Boy he is so much more responsive and a pleasure to ride!

    1. I’m sure he appreciates the slow-down Sherry 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  22. I never arrive at the yard stressed…. if I have been stressed at work, my drive to the yard is my time to de-stress/unwind so I don’t have to make a ‘conscious’ decision to ‘chill out’ when I get there. The yard is my place of peace and sanity in a crazy world. My mare is very sensitive and I take lots of time bringing her in from the field (approaching softly and lovingly with lots of physical kisses once I reach her, before putting on the halter and asking if she’d would like to come with me). Followed by lots of grooming and scratching all the places she tells me she wants. She then has 10 or 20 mins eating hay before I approach with tack. Tacking up is also gradual where I will watch for signs of displeasure etc, etc. It is all about setting us up for success and the horse has to have a say in this relationship. We control too much of our horse’s life (we say when it goes out, when it comes in, what rug it wears, when it’s fed, when it’s ridden) ….. they deserve to be given time and to be listened to. If you can’t give your horse the time it needs then you shouldn’t have one.

    1. It sounds like you have a great awareness of this Dawne! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. I learned this lesson from the best teacher – my horse.
    I remember that I was running late and so I wasn’t grounded and didn’t take the essential time to connect with myself and to connect with her. I was brisk and businesslike and just went through the motions, from bringing her in from the paddock all the way through grooming and a quick lunge and a really unsatisfying lesson. Result: unhappy horse, unhappy rider. I apologized to her afterwards and time with her just hanging out when I realized what I’d done and how I’d failed her. Horses are so forgiving, aren’t they?
    So now I always try to arrive an hour before a lesson or a ride, spend lots of time grooming and talking to her very quietly (not chatting much with other riders), and give her as much lunge and warmup time as she seems to need. I love to take time to do ground and joinup work. Every minute of that is worth gold – before or after or instead of a lesson. For me it’s a joyous investment in our relationship and trust.
    So yes, I learned from the best, and the lesson has stuck with me.

    1. Horses are often our very best teachers! Being able to take the time results in a much better experience, I’m glad to hear you are back to enjoying the ride!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  24. Thanks for this video. It is so true. I am fortunate enough not to have any time constraints on the 2 mornings when I go to ride my lease horse. I am always joyful to see Yogi and call to him as I approach the field. He usually looks up and nickers and starts walking across the filed towards me. When I greet him I usually hold my hand out to his muzzle and after a quick muzzle bump I give him a scratch or a rub. After a while I halter him and we walk back to the barn but I chat away to him and he walks happily beside me.
    I continue this while grooming him and notice how he is being and true enough I see him different each time. I believe it does help our connection.

  25. I always try to arrive early. I don’t have my own horse – I use the same lesson horse. When I go out to the paddock to get him I still greet him with the back of my hand so he can sniff (and know there isn’t a treat) but I do a long relaxed breath in and out and sometimes he’ll do the same. No problem getting the halter and lead on and getting him to the barn. Same thing while brushing and before taking him up. Lots of long relaxed breaths in and out.

  26. What a timely reminder! I arrived at the barn rushed and carrying some leftover baggage from work. My riding instructor was being monopolized by her previous rider and that went 15 minutes into my time. The mare I was assigned was being particularly cranky. But was she? Was she just reacting to my stress?

    The ride was horrible, I was stiff and angry. The mare was stiff and angry. We were just fighting each other every step of the way.

    And, it was all on me. Some time just enjoying being outdoors, away from work, maybe visiting with my favorite old horse might have helped settle me from work. Being mindful that there was a serious issue that kept my instructor busy. Taking time to just breathe and enjoy being where I was rather that fixating on where I had been.

    1. It totally has an effect on our ride! It can be hard to remember when we are caught up in the moment but hopefully this video gave you the tools to manage next time 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. My nerves start at home. I don’t understand myself,as once I’m there I can get myself going,but at home I’m terrible,sweaty hands and feeling sick.im trying a new horse out with view to buy and my confidence is spoiling the whole experience. He’s a lovely boy and I really like him but I can’t get through this big. Many thanks Tracy x

  28. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you! No trainer ever explained this to me. I had to learn this on my own when I bought my first horse a young OTTB – being late and rushing to tack up only resulted in a less pleasant start which set the tone for the whole lesson or ride. Now I’m very mindful of my energy and careful not to project rushing or negativity. Even as you said I will wait until he lifts his head rather than try to halter him while he’s munching on his hay.

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