Trilogy Pro Tips with Adrienne Lyle - How to Build a Young Horse’s Work Ethic

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard (Photo: Amy McCool)
Adrienne Lyle and Wizard (Photo: Amy McCool)

Quick tips from the Trilogy Ambassadors brought to you by
One of the most important attributes in a successful dressage horse is a good work ethic. All the physical talent in the world won’t amount to much if the horse isn’t willing to work for its rider. To help instill a good work ethic in a young dressage horse, keep these things in mind:
1) The horse must always have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The rider needs to be clear on what is an acceptable response and what is not, to every aid they give. Incorrect or lack-luster responses need to be corrected quickly and fairly, and then the correct response must be immediately rewarded by praise or by a release of pressure from the rider.

Once horses have a clear understanding of what is expected from them, they gain confidence in themselves and will give more. It is imperative that the rider stays disciplined themselves, and never accepts less than a 100% reaction from an aid given to the horse. When a rider is inconsistent or unclear with what they expect from the horse, then the horse will get confused and frustrated. Frustration on the horse’s part often leads to them “tuning out”, and then they stop trying.

2) Set small goals that you know you can accomplish and keep training sessions short and to-the-point. Try to avoid getting into battles that you can’t win. Challenge the horse, but never over-face them. Set yourself up for success by being sure you are asking your horse something that is in line with its training progression, and be sure that your horse is fit enough to do what is asked. Overtaxing a horse, physically, will lead to soreness and the horse feeling like they physically are unable to do what is asked. Then they will become frustrated and stop trying, because they know they are going to fail. It is often more beneficial to have short, to-the-point schooling sessions, rather than try to cram too much into one ride. To instill a good work ethic in a horse, they must learn that if they come out and try hard, they won’t be drilled on. The more this training process can be repeated, the more that mind-set is instilled in the horse.

3) Mix it up. Add variety in the horse’s training, to keep them mentally fresh and excited for their ride. Cross training or riding outside the ring is a fun way to keep them fit and expose them to new and interesting things.
"Having a happy and willing horse is what the sport of dressage is all about. With an empathetic understanding of the horse’s learning process, proper guidelines, and clear expectations, you can help your horse become a willing and enjoyable equine partner."