I’m the kind of person who loves planning and whether it’s for studying or riding, I always like to have a written plan on paper or I start to feel unorganized and unproductive. When I plan the following week on Sunday evening, all I have to do next is just follow the plan and that way, I won’t have to worry about getting everything done. This mostly applies for studying, because my deadline is the day of the exam and I know exactly what I have to learn before that date. Studying for an exam is very straightforward so making a study plan is simple. When planning weekly routines for the horses, I always leave it open in case something comes up during the week. Horses aren’t too predictable and many things can affect how well I can follow my original plan.
Before planning for the week, I have to have an idea of where my riding and horses are at the moment and where would I like to take those things in the close (and far) future. Right now I don’t really have any concrete short term plans or goals for my horses. With T I’m really just going week by week and not thinking too much about long term goals. He’s only 5 and in order to eventually make him into a well behaved, balanced grown up, I’m going to take my time with establishing a strong base for all of his further education. My former trainer once explained that making progress (this applies to training a young horse as well as a young rider) should be like building a pyramid and not a tower. The obvious analogy there is that a pyramid can’t be toppled over when difficulties occur whereas a narrow tower is easy to bring down. Also, the taller you build the narrow tower, the more unstable it becomes and the more vulnerable it becomes against even the smallest hits.
The same principles apply to Fantti also, because he is recovering from an injury. If I hurry and try to bring him back to his former condition too fast the more likely it becomes that he either tears the same tendon again or just gets injured in some other way. With him I have to be especially careful because he tends to be very submissive and tries to do what is asked of him even if it’s uncomfortable or causes pain without protesting. Again, taking more time and being more careful will more likely help him recover faster and steadier and reduce the risk of another injury.
By trial and error I've developed an idea of how many days out of seven my horses can work and how much I can generally ask of them. For young horses, some people follow a rule of thumb where the age of the horse defines how many days of a week they can work. Obviously this is a rule that shouldn’t be interpreted too strictly and that applies best for horses aged 5 or younger in my opinion. That’s why it’s called a rule of thumb. T and Fantti seem to be similar in the sense that both work more willingly and give better results when they get more days off and their exercise is less repetitive and more varying. Some horses (like Janne) don’t do very well with too many days off and appreciate harder work in a different way. I believe that horses are developed best when they get periods of harder and lighter work in turn. For example, a horse could do two weeks of a more intense work, then one week of more rest and easier work, then two weeks intensely again and so on.
As always, listening to the horse is key in planning a short and long term routine because horses are like people in the sense that no two are identical. Also because they are not machines, the plans you make have to leave room for adjustment according to how the horse feels. For example, T was doing a weekly routine of 4 work days for some time until he started to feel a little too fresh every time I rode him. I decided that if he had this much excess energy, he might as well do 5 days the next week. After that week, he still didn’t feel tired at all so I decided to do another week of five work days. Saturday was work day 4/5 and he finally started to feel tired towards the end of the ride. On Sunday he had a proper workout on the lunge line and this week he’ll do a lighter four days again and we’ll see how he responds. This is just an example of how I listen to him when planning. He had a complete break for 4 days three weeks ago when he cut his eyelid and I’m probably going to give him another break sometime soon, maybe in a couple weeks.
Planning has many benefits compared to not planning at all when it comes to riding. Not all people are huge fans of planning and it’s perfectly fine when it comes to their own life but if you’re trying to go up the levels in shows, build your horse’s physique or train a young horse, I really recommend planning and having some sort of system to follow. The same trainer who gave me the pyramid analogy also stated that ’’a bad system is still better than no system at all’’. I feel a lot better if I have everything organized and while I am a complete amateur as a rider, I find pleasure in looking at what the best riders in the world do and try to incorporate that into my own riding and managing of my horses. For example, I greatly admire the meticulousness of the way Irish show jumper and Olympic bronze medalist Cian O’Connor runs his barn and team of riders, horses and staff and while there’s really no point in me trying to copy all of that, I can see how that meticulousness has helped him get to where he is today and I can take that mindset and apply it to whatever I’m doing. After all, learning often happens by copying someone better than you.
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