When Things don’t go your Way

I’m a huge planner. I love to plan my day, school, blog posts, etc. Riding is one thing I can’t totally schedule out. I can’t see in the future what JT’s state of mind and body will be. Our rides are affected by so many factors: weather, ring capacity, yesterday’s ride, or just his moods from day to day. I have learned to be flexible with riding. Even the times when I’ve had a really hard and stressful day, I need to remember that they are living, breathing beings and just like myself, they will have off-days, energetic days, etc. So, what exercises and things should you do when things don’t necessarily go as YOU planned that day?


First, assess the situation: What is your horse like that day? Are they fresh, but still ridable? Are they fresh enough to go for a quick lunge? What’s the weather like? Has the temperature dropped or risen immensely? Are there a lot of people in the ring? Do you notice any cuts, scrapes, swelling or behavioral issues while tacking? Make sure you fully assess the situation before panicking or jumping to a major conclusion (I work on this constantly).


Based on your assessment you can then decide if you want to take the time to lunge your horse or just incorporate some interesting exercises into your ride:

  1. Lunge: Sometimes a horse needs some time to get out some of their energy. If absolutely needed, I will suit JT up in his bell boots and front/back boots and let him have some fun. I don’t like to antagonize him on the lunge line, instead I let him safely dictate what he wants to do (to an extent). I make sure he canters quite a bit until he shows he’s gotten some of his jitters out and is ready to work with me.

  2. Exercises: If your horse doesn’t necessarily need a lunge, but could use some extra brain/muscle work to calm them a bit, there are so many exercises you can choose from. These are some of my favorites:

  3. Circles- you could spiral in, use half of the ring, or focus on a specific corner

  4. Serpentines

  5. Trotting at a working pace-this is a great gait to work your horse, especially if the canter might not be the safest choice with a wild horse at the moment

  6. Canter around

  7. Figure 8s

  8. Collecting on one side of the ring and moving off your leg on the other

  9. Transitions

  10. Counter-bending

  11. Leg yields

Here’s an example of what I might do on a day when JT is a little up or maybe a bit anxious:

  1. Walk around for around 5 minutes – allow him see the ring / new changes

  2. Trot (using the exercises listed) until I feel he is loosened up and quieter

  3. Canter

  4. A more working canter w/ circles, serpentines, etc.

  5. Regular canter with transitions

  6. Combine trot/canter – transitions and working on making sure we’re in tune together

  7. If possible, finish with trotting at least a lap each direction on a loose rein

  8. Cool out for around 5-10 minutes

This gives you an idea of what my ride might look like, but again, the key is flexibility. I have to remember to take a breath, relax, and listen to him. If horses teach us anything, it’s that our perfect plans don’t always work out. Save yourself the frustration and follow the clues your horse is giving you. It can be unproductive and downright dangerous to ignore what they’re feeling and just try to push your own agenda for that day. It may not be the ride you had planned, but it can still be a useful, educational ride for both you and your horse. A successful hack looks