I was wondering about the appropriate length of time that a training session with your horse should last. I realize that a lot of that depends on the difficulty of what you are teaching your horse and where your horse is in his learning life. But if I was having a regular, nothing-dramatically-new, riding or lunging session with my horse should I expect him to stick with me for 30 minutes, 60 minutes or what? I want my horses to enjoy our sessions together so I don’t want to burn them out or not have them challenging enough.
My last question has to do with seat position in the saddle. When I asked my instructor this question I really didn’t get a response so I am hoping you can help. So when we talk about opening our pelvis, I cannot do that with our tightening, clenching whatever word you like better, my butt muscles. Which is counter-productive because you want your butt soft in the saddle. Is there a way to open your pelvis without tightening up? Now that I have asked my friend this question she realized that she to does the same thing I do. I can imagine how my horse must feel when I do that on top of him. Are those just the muscles you use? Are there visualization techniques to open your pelvis but not tighten up or am I simply doing it wrong, which would not be out of the realm of possibility! Thanks for your help; I look forward to hearing back from you.
A mature trained horse should certainly stick with you for an hour or more, depending on how demanding your training session is. The younger the horse, the shorter the attention span. If you give your horse mental breaks throughout your session for a few moments here and there, he will not get too burned out. There is nothing more powerful than quitting on a horse when he has really tried hard so that he comes back the next day with that same attitude.
Finished show horses at the peak of their training will generally not have much training at all between shows, but just get light exercise on a longe line or something to stay in shape. That's how they are kept from burnout. Pay attention to your own horse's attitude and watch for early warning signs and know that you may need to vary his work or lighten his workload if his attitude suffers. The best thing is to give frequent breaks during your session. The biggest problem I see with people that leads to burnout in their horses, is that we get too greedy and as soon as our horse gives a good response, we ask again and again and again, which leads the horse to resent you. When you get the response you want, reward the horse with a pet and a break and move onto something else.
The answer to your opening the pelvis question is an easy one! You do NOT use your buttocks muscles to do this. Instead, you use your upper abdominal muscles. Sitting in your chair right now, cough or clear your throat strongly. You will feel your pelvis open when you use these muscles. Those are the muscles you use for pelvis control while you are riding, not your buttocks muscles. There is a set of muscles deep within your abdomen called the Psoas muscles and these are the ones you use for opening your pelvis.
You are correct that you should never clench your buttocks, not only is this destructive to your riding, but it sends a message of alarm to your horse and pretty soon, you are both clenching your butts! Practice opening your pelvis with your abdominal muscles; using the cough or throat clear will help you get this feel.
Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer, Horse Master with Julie Goodnight TV Host