The other day I was talking to one of my clients about the progress she's made since she started learning how to ride just over a year ago. She was talking about how there seems to be no end to what there is to learn about horsemanship. And how true indeed! I've been riding since I could walk and teaching since the age of 14 and I still feel the same way. I suggested she start a horsemanship journal so she can track her progress and remind herself of just how far she's come. I used to do the same and found it very useful when I was training a few horses at a time. Not only could I look back and see the progress I was making with a horse but I could look forward and plan training lessons as well.
Remember to always keep it simple. Most of my journal entries and plans have three main points only. At any given time with a horse or with a student I will work on no more than three major concepts at a time. One will be a recently mastered concept that we review and use to build confidence. A second will be a developing concept that still needs some practice. And the third is a brand new concept that isn't understood yet and that I'm still 'explaining' to a horse or student.
A typical journal entry looks something like this:
July 5, 2014 - Quiggly
Reviewed turn on the forehand: Almost never needs a reminder to hold up left shoulder anymore. Excellent speed with clear pivot foot.
Practiced two track at the jog/trot: Still gets a bit sticky and needs more forward - especially to the left
Tried a few flying lead changes: Gets the concept and then tries to anticipate... badly! Still working to get him to relax and slow his shoulders down (again the left!) so his hips can catch up.
Quiggly is clearly my horse. An entry for a student that same day looked something like this:
July 5, 2014 - Joey
Reviewed how to hold the lead rope: Joey organized his lead rope without any reminders again today when it was time to lead his horse to the ring.
Practiced how to hold the reins when mounted: Joey needs a verbal reminder once in a while but that's it. No more demos needed for this one :-)
Demonstrated how to shorten reins: Joey was able to copy my demonstration but can't tell when his reins need to be adjusted yet.
The three parts of your ride or lesson can be linked or can build on each other as is the case for Quiggly and Joey. As you can see Quiggly is working on advanced manuevers while Joey is a very young beginner who might have some limitations. No matter what level you are at be sure to enjoy yourself and celebrate your progress!