Tips for when your horse comes home from the trainer

Sending your horse to a trainer is a great way to break him safely and effectively, or teach him some advanced skills. Here’s what to expect upon his return!

Your horse just came home from the trainer – now what? Whether your horse was away being started under saddle, was having problems or issues worked on, or was getting some advanced training, here are some tips to help you and your horse get off on the right foot now that he’s home.

Maintain momentum 

The first important point to consider is that your horse has likely been ridden a lot lately at the trainer’s so he’s tuned up, in good shape, and hopefully in a good frame of mind. Therefore, when your horse comes home you’re going to need to continue to work with him and ride him. If you don’t work with your horse then all of the things that he’s doing so well are going to slide back and you’re going to lose a lot of what you just paid for. It’s a real mistake to think that because your horse was at the trainer’s that he is now fully trained and that you don’t have to do any more work with him. Probably the single thing that irritates trainers the most is when a client gets a horse home from training and doesn’t work with him for six months, and then hops on one day and is annoyed with the trainer and/or horse when the horse doesn’t handle perfectly. Horses are not like a computer where once a program is downloaded it is there permanently. On the contrary, a horse’s training needs to be maintained so if you don’t keep up the work that your trainer started a lot of that training will have been in vain.

TIP: When your horse comes home, ride in a roundpen or arena for the first few days so you can get the feel of your horse without worrying about outside distractions.

Be patient while you get back in sync

Another important point is that your horse is now in sync with the trainer – not you. Even if your horse had already been trained to ride and you rode him before he’s not going to feel the same after his time with the trainer. Likely he’s going to have buttons that he didn’t have before and he’s going to be more responsive than you remember him being. You now need some time to get the feel of your horse again and he needs time to get the feel of you again. If your horse was being started under saddle then chances are he’s only used to the feel of the trainer, so it will take that horse even more time to get used to you.

It’s very important here to work with your horse to get the feel of him but don’t play with all the bells and whistles right away. In other words, you need to ride your horse easy in the beginning to get a feel for what he knows. You might have watched your horse doing some pretty cool maneuvers at the trainer’s and it’s temping to put him through his paces and test everything out. However, keep in mind that the horse and trainer were used to each other and they built up to that training. No matter how good of a rider you are, there are going to be differences between the way you ride and the way the trainer rode. Chances are your legs are going to touch the horse in a different way than the trainer’s, you probably use your upper body differently, you cue with the reins slightly different, and any number of other little variations that add up to make a big difference. Don’t plan to step on and pick up where the trainer left off. Start back a few steps from where your trainer was with the horse and rebuild the connection. Ride your horse consistently for the first week after he gets home without asking for very much. After that time you’ll be more in sync and then more can be asked of the horse without running the risk of causing confusion.

Location matters

Another quick thing to discuss is where you ride your horse. If you’ve ridden your horse all over creation and he just went away for a little fine tuning then this isn’t as big of a deal. However, if your horse has just been started under saddle or had a lot of problem solving work done, then where you start riding can be important. If either of those describe your horse, start in a round pen or small arena for the first little while – even if the trainer has had the horse out of the round pen for some time now. Riding in a confined area with not many distractions will keep your horse’s focus more on you and reduce the likelihood that he’ll be spooked by something. Another reason for this is that if things start to go downhill there’s a lot less chance of getting into trouble in the confined area then there is in a big pasture or going down a trail through the woods. Get the feel of your young horse in the pen and then when you’re comfortable together head out into the world from there.

TIP: When you’re comfortable riding your horse in a confined area you can then ride across fields or down trails.

Don’t resist the changes 

One last point – realize that this is a new chapter of you and your horse’s life. A lot of folks tend to think of and work with their horse based on what their horse was in the past. Your horse has likely turned a page in his training and you need to as well. For instance, if your horse used to be a little bit spooky and your trainer fixed the issue it’s a bad idea to ride your horse acting as if you’re always expecting him to spook. If you focus too much on past experiences your horse is going to feel this and may revert to what he was like before.

Use these tips when your horse comes home from the trainer to ensure a smooth transition. Remember to put in some extra time and effort once he gets home, be consistent, and have some fun.