How do you explain to novice horse owners that over-training can be worse than under-training?

Help me out here, please.

Say that.

Do you mean these novice riders are actually training the horse to do new things or are you talking about someone schooling a move over and over until the horse is sore and sour? The problem for many novice riders is they need to get the hours in the saddle doing specific things but especially if they have their one own horse, they can’t practise say two point over cross rails an hour a day 7 days a week. Ideally they could ride multiple horses but that isn’t always possible.

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You tell them to run ten miles a day when they can only run two. And do it every day for a week.

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They want intense 2 hour lessons every day!!!

They want intense 2 hour lessons every day!!!

You can’t simply tell them no, that’s neither necessary nor healthy for the horse? What’s the problem here? I can’t understand how this is a legitimate obstacle for a professional trainer.

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Great.

They can do it after a 6AM hourlong HIIT session and an 8AM run. Without their stirrup irons. Start with working trot in two point. Stop when they fall off.

Teenagers?

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I’ll admit that I was once a person who definitely over trained, as I can be competitive and thought more training = more progress. Wrong. Perfect practice makes perfect performance and perfect practice won’t come from drills. After all, do we like to be drilled to do our work/ homework etc? NO, it makes us bitter and unmotivated to do so. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to realize that until one summer I started to try a different training way for my horse and I started to ride JUST until I had the response toward my goal, even if it wasn’t all that I was asking for. Sometimes, that could be as little as 5 min.

What solidified the thought that less training time= more progress though was the results. I used to spend a lot of time in the saddle. My rides had some good points and some not so fun points, but overall I’d say it resulted in a horse that wasn’t so happy to do the job and would take longer to get them where I wanted them to be. When I reduced training time, I noticed the following: (1) horses that were MOTIVATED to learn and (2) horses excited to get ridden. The overall result due to the above was a horse that learned quicker, that didn’t need much repetition to get things right and that stopped tension related habits. When push came to shove, the horse was able to accomplish quality training in 1/4 of the time it once took.

In training, we are often told to give the horse ‘release’ when they have done something correct. This tells them that they gave us the right response and is also a ‘reward’ of sorts (negative reinforcement by taking away the stimulus), but then we often do the opposite when it comes to working the horse for training purposes. If she has taken psychology, you could compare this to the concept of conditioning (what it is). Studies have shown that things that are rewarded are done more often (willingly). The average horse certainly adheres to this concept and training is largely based off of conditioning principles. Things that are punished, we do less of willingly. The horse gives us the correct response, or a step towards the correct response and yet we keep repeating it again and again, thinking it will get better over time, then the horse stops putting in as much effort. After a certain point, drilling the horse becomes a punishment in the principle of conditioning. This results in the learning curve decelerating and a decreased quality of learning. Additionally, a horse will be less willing to work and start resisting in some shape or form including bit issues, behavioral issues etc

There is also the fact that an intense 2 hour ride increases the risk of injury due to fatigue, especially if these rides are frequent. This is where tendon/ ligament issues could more easily occur and nobody wants to deal with those. Ligament issues aren’t always apparent either - a horse can often appear sound to the untrained eye until damage has accumulated enough to make it apparent. But let me tell you, ligament issues are an absolute pain in the behind to treat, take forever to heal and do not always heal enough to make the horse sound again.

An intense 2 hour lesson is for the rider, not the horse. It’s useful to ride 2 or 3 hours a day, for the person. It’s not useful to keep schooling a horse longer than half an hour or 45 minutes.

So this person needs access to multiple horses. If they want 2 hours of lessons then find them 3 horses to ride. Or they should start doing long trail rides incorporating speed and hills. Extra hours in the saddle is great. You just can’t keep one horse in the arena 2 hours a day without too much mental and physical wear and tear.

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You can tell them how selfish and unfeeling they are about the LIVING creature they are asking to do the work! Intense, long periods of work should be followed by 2 or 3 days of low level, easy stuff or short trail rides. As a trainer for 40 years, I ALWAYS want my pupil (horse) to be more relaxed, happy and still capable of doing more when I’m done. You can not only sour their attitude towards work but do physical damage with too much repetitive work. It’s senseless and won’t improve anything. If a rider needs more saddle time, they need to incorporate more horses and rotate the amount of work. There is NOTHING to be gained by what is suggested here and it shows a crap attitude about the horses. They should turn to something mechanical and not living if they have no feeling for a living creature - JMHO!

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Let them know that horses can only handle a certain amount of time focusing on certain things. Overworking them on certain exercises can strain joints/tendons as much as fry their brains. Even doing certain basics like halt/back can lead certain green horses to get frustrated and confused. When my horse was a greenie, he was quite good leg yielding in one direction, but would get completely frazzled after 2-3 tries with the other direction. If they want longer saddle time, maybe do an off site trailer ride or XC school someplace where they can be training of/off in a relaxed or different atmosphere.

If you have any extra lesson horses available to add to their regimen , then you can still offer them intense, two-hour lessons every day. I would explain that a horse can only tolerate so much, especially when people are learning. Set a boundary for the horse they are riding. But I do think that if you have a motivated rider who wants to ride more often, and you have the horses available, and they have the money to pay, then there is no issue with them taking 2 hours of intense lessons per day on a variety of horses. Maybe they lesson on their horse 3x a week (if they have one) and the rest of the time they rotate on lesson horses (if available). If it’s spread out among different horses and the rider can go on for 2 hours (good for them!) then the only person this might be hurting is the trainer’s mental state. And if you aren’t up for it, you can always say no and “lovingly refer” them to another barn if they demand it.

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I am not sure I agree with this premise. Assuming this person has access to multiple horses to ride, I think more saddle time IS the key to getting good at this sport. Obviously, everyone needs days off from any sort of physical training for recovery. But I think two hours a day is a way better way to get good at riding than one hour a day.

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2 hours of intense lessons every day, all on the same horse?! Tell them that this kind of workload will quickly lead to unsoundness.

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Tell them 90 minutes/day Pilates for them and 30 min undersaddle for horse!!

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Sit down with them and discuss conditioning and appropriate work schedules. Get out a calendar, and have them pick one day a week that the horse will rest. Explain how muscles develop micro-tears during work, and only truly build during rest, as the tears heal.

Then, talk about the benefits of long-slow conditioning. Assuming the horse is fit, pick one day a week where they will do 1 hour + of brisk walking around the farm/trails.

Then, put down lessons the other 5 days, where you are in charge of how hard the rider/horse works. Make sure you explain that the horse has no muscles in their lower legs, just tendons/ligaments. If the muscles aren’t slowly and carefully conditioned, they get tired, and put extra stress on the tendons/ligaments, which result in injuries. A simple strained tendon could lay the horse up for 6 months or more. If they want to do more than 45 minutes of training per day, they need multiple horses.

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They are going to have horses with shin soreness, splints, windgalls, etc etc etc

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Who’s the trainer here? I’m confused, because if the trainer is allowing this, nothing will change (IME)

Are you a concerned onlooker/barn-mate? What is your relationship with them?

I ask because it very much changes how you approach the situation. Barn dynamics are an important consideration. Someone is giving them 2 hour lessons everyday… it truly might not be your place to say anything. I know my opinion might not be agreed with, but if you’re not the trainer, just someone else at the barn, aside from having a conversation WITH their trainer/your trainer, IME, trainer needs the $ from the 2 hour lessons, and the kid wants the 2 hour lessons.

Because edit is not working: IF YOU’RE THE TRAINER you say what has either been posted above, or the title of your post. Let the kid ride a schoolie or have them run the premise of your property for extra work, but 2 hour lessons every day is not fair to the horse. end of story.