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Difficult Horses Have the Most Lessons to Teach

Updated on November 19, 2018
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

We Are Not Downplaying Your Frustration, Promise!

Some of you that may have been having a difficult lesson just hear that line about difficult horses having the most lessons may just roll your eyes. You may think that we are trying to downplay how frustrating a difficult ride can be.

That is not the case at all! We know what it is like to have a frustrating ride. To try, and try and try, and just not feeling like you can get it right. Like you can't get your body to do what your instructor is telling you. Maybe you just can't get through to your horse for whatever reason. We all have those days.

Frustration is a part of life, it is also a part of riding. It is unavoidable and how we handle it is what makes the difference. We know it is frustrating, we like to think that if we can keep giving you instructions, step by step that we can keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Not leaving time for the emotion of frustration to sneak in.

Sometimes it is inevitable that you will get frustrated, as instructors we take our job seriously. We will try our best not to let you get frustrated, and if you do, to help calm you down so your energy doesn't rub off on your already difficult horse.

Difficult horses teach us how to handle our frustration. How to listen to our trainers even when our minds are going round and round in frustrating circles with our horses. As trainers, we try our very best to set things up so you won't get frustrated. If for some reason you do, we will help work you through it. Remember, we can relate to where you are, we have all been there.

My heart horse, who was the most difficult horse I ever dealt with.
My heart horse, who was the most difficult horse I ever dealt with. | Source

Ride Only Easy Horses And Your Skill Will Plateau

Riding push button horses are fun. We can just think about our selves, what we are doing, and following instructions. Problem is once you gain a basic confidence level and skill set if you don't move on to a more challenging horse your skill level will begin to plateau. You will gain false confidence and not continue to grow your skills.

If your trainer puts you on a more difficult horse, they are giving you a vote of confidence that they are ready and eager for you to move on to the next level in your horsemanship skill set. Whatever that may be.

Zelda making one of her more innocent faces
Zelda making one of her more innocent faces | Source

Riding Difficult Horses Teaches Us To Think Outside The Box

Riding more difficult horses makes us think outside the box, be creative and try different things. Not all horses are the same, some are more sensitive or stubborn than others. Meaning that your typical training or riding methods, might not get results.

You will work with your trainer and learn how to come up with different tactics to get the job done. Different tools you can use to get your point across and get your horse to understand what you want.

If you never ride a horse that isn't straightforward you are missing out on an opportunity to build your skill set and learn new things.

Pretty picture of my Zelda mare. Don't mind my riding in shorts, at least I had on the important stuff, the helmet and body protector.
Pretty picture of my Zelda mare. Don't mind my riding in shorts, at least I had on the important stuff, the helmet and body protector. | Source

Learning To See Each Horse As An Individual

When you ride easy, straightforward horses, in a way, we can begin to treat them all the same. Like robots that have buttons we push and then they respond appropriately.

This is all wrong. Every horse is an individual, just like every person is different, every cat, every dog, all individuals are unique. We need to see them as such and help them to thrive. Knowing them as individuals will help us to see their ins and outs and quirks. That is how we realize the many different training methods and exercises that are out there. Not just the methods and tools, but what horses they work best with, and which ones won't respond to a certain thing well at all.

When she was good, she was really good. When she was bad she was really bad.
When she was good, she was really good. When she was bad she was really bad. | Source

Learning To Trust Your Trainer, Even When You Are Scared Or Frustrated

Riding a difficult horse means that your trainer has given you the vote of confidence that you can handle this horse. That is a big compliment. You may get scared or frustrated while you are riding it. It is bound to happen when you are riding a horse that you are used to.

You will bond with your trainer. Learn to have enough respect and trust in them to do what they are saying. Even if it is wrong, or hard...or doesn't make sense to you at the time. They will explain it later, or most likely you will have a lightbulb moment and figure it out yourself!

One of my very first rides on Zelda, you can see that she didn't look too enthused. I worked with a great trainer at the time.
One of my very first rides on Zelda, you can see that she didn't look too enthused. I worked with a great trainer at the time. | Source

Learning To Determine The Cause Of Inappropriate Behavior

Learning to ride more difficult horses you will learn to think and feel through what is going on underneath of you. You will learn that in order to fix the problem you need to understand the cause.

Are you not communicating to the horse in a way he understands? Is his tack ill-fitting? Is the horse experiencing physical pain in some way? How to interpret the difference in all of these things, and how to handle them.

These are the sorts of refined skills that you only learn when you experience them first hand with a horse and problem solve. Lessons like that where you figure out why a horse is doing what he is doing and why are the lessons that stick with you, for a lifetime. If you never ride more difficult horses, you miss out on these opportunities.

Take note in this picture that her bridle looks a little odd. Well it was, it was pieced together because Zelda hated her ears being touched. No physical cause, trust me we checked. It is something I learned to deal with.
Take note in this picture that her bridle looks a little odd. Well it was, it was pieced together because Zelda hated her ears being touched. No physical cause, trust me we checked. It is something I learned to deal with. | Source

It Is These Types Of Horses That We Really Form Deep Connections and Bonds With

Horses that are difficult, they may frustrate us, or even scare us. They require more work, more time, and more lessons to ride successfully. We have to think outside of the box, ask for more help them usual to figure them out.

Since it takes such a commitment to succeed with them when we finally do. We connect with them and communicate with them on a level that is much deeper than that of the lesson horse that bopped around with you so you could learn to post.

Those horses, of course, serve an important purpose, getting you hooked on the horse life and giving you the needed confidence to move onto more difficult horses with.

It is the difficult ones though that we really learn to love and improve our skills with. Being able to figure out a difficult horse, even if it is with the help of your trainer, is a great victory.

A victory and the beginning of many more rewarding experiences on your horsemanship journey.

I was 15 when I got Zelda and she was 2. I owned for her  whole life,and she will always top the list when it comes to heart horses.
I was 15 when I got Zelda and she was 2. I owned for her whole life,and she will always top the list when it comes to heart horses. | Source

Riding Horses Isn't Always Easy

Riding horses isn't always easy, but nothing in life is. Horses are no different, and totally worth everything they may put you through on your horsemanship journey.

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