Routine is a really powerful training tool. Horses thrive on routine. They seem to unwind and blossom as soon as they are put into a structured lifestyle. I find the two most exciting aspects of the days routine, are feeds and turnouts.
Because he gets fed at the same times each day, Solo’s digestive system kicks in before his regular grain feed arrives in his stall. By the time he starts eating, his saliva glands are already active and his system is primed and ready to do it’s job of breaking the food down into nutrients. Anxiety about feed times, and irregular feed times reduce the horses ability to thrive on it’s food. I am careful to ensure that Solo has had access to either pasture or hay prior to his grain feed so that the digestive juices that flow as feed times approach, are not flowing into an empty gut.
After being grained in the morning the barn is left quiet for half an hour to allow all the horses to eat their grain undisturbed. The lights are turned out and Solo usually settles down for his morning nap around then. He is a great one for little naps, I guess it goes with being only three.
Turnout takes place at much the same time every day and whenever possible the horses are led in and out in the same order. Anxiety about turnout can sometimes result in the horse being a little frantic on it’s turnout and opening itself up to the likelihood of paddock injuries. Solo is always keen and ready for his turnout and is waiting enthusiastically at the gate when it’s time to come in. With all the ‘important to Solo’ aspects of his life on a routine he can depend upon, he is given every opportunity to stay focused and concentrate on his lessons.
Solo has a lesson six days a week. He gets Monday as his day off. The lessons themselves have a routine. He is always taken out and put into the cross ties. Groomed and tacked and then put back into his stall, where he is tied up until I am ready for him. The tieing up in the stall is part of his lesson, and will prepare him to be tied up in far less comforting surrounding later in his life.
Solo’s lessons last about twenty minutes on the lunge and maybe 30 minutes if he is being ponied. As he is still very young, we don’t need to make any of his lessons longer. If I am using the de gogue or the side reins, I will not attach them for more than five minutes lunging in each direction, longer than that and I would risk stressing his musco skeletal structure. I find my young horses progress faster, both physically and mentally, on regular but short sessions.