The honeymoon phase of horses is the first 6-8 rides / runs on a new horse.
No matter how broke, finished or fancy it is,
No matter how much money we spent,
No matter who trained it,
No matter how much it’s won,
No matter how many competitions it’s been to,
No matter who is riding it,
The honeymoon phase will come to and end at some point in time.
Horses require building relationships. Just like any new relationship with a human, it takes time to build them! When we first get together it’s so much fun. We get to do all the things. We start to to learn about what makes us tick, what we like and we don’t like. What makes us comfortable and uncomfortable.
At first, the horse is on autopilot. Meaning it automatically does what it knows from the previous rider. The more you ride, the more your new mount gets to know you and you get to know it and the more confusing the mixed signals can be.
Your weight is different making your body signals feel a little different.
Your legs are a different length, which puts pressure in different places, so your cues on the horses side feel a little different.
The length of your arms is different so where you put your hands on the reins creates a little different signal.
Your strength is different, when the previous rider squeezed or pulled, it felt different.
Your energy is different, your nerves flow faster or slower than the rider before so your horses heart is beating a little different.
Your depth perception is different, the previous rider’s “sweet spot” is a little different than yours.
Your mind is different, you think and react a little differently.
Your family/friends/circle is different, the rider before was surrounded by a whole different group of people that your horse is getting used.
Your facility is different. There are different horses, different turnouts, different sights and sounds.
There are so many new differences!
That’s the beauty in animals, in change, in relationships and that’s why we want youth to grow up with them. Learning to build a relationship with something that doesn’t speak the same language is challenging! Once the honeymoon phase is over, you’ve got to be able to stick with it and continue working on that relationship.
During this time, riders have grace for yourself and your horse. It’s as much of a challenge for you. They want to please you, work with you and perform well. It’s a messy time for both of you, so stick together, get curious and have fun with the challenge. Be open minded, ask for help, be coachable, be willing!
Parents, go easy on your kids with a new horse. Sure they smoked the first handful of runs and you want them to continue to succeed, but this is life and this is one of the most important life lessons horses provide for their riders, learning to communicate and work through frustrating times. Team work, hard work, persistence, consistency, and not giving up! Give them the time, space and support to figure it out. You knew when you bought the horse that was just the down payment. It will continue to cost you money and time until they form that bond. No of money, time or education will beat the lesson they learn on the other side of it.
Everyone, take some of the pressure off yourselves! Horses, parents, riders, coaches, this is fun! Get fascinated instead of frustrated. Get curious about what works and doesn’t. Trust the process, let God lead, if he brought the horse to you, he brought it for a reason!!
It will get. It will be worth. You’ll be so glad you did it! So embrace the suck and enjoy the journey!
Disclaimer: do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. If you or your child says they feel unsafe and you can hear and feel the genuine concern coming from their intuition, trust them and get a different horse! It doesn’t necessarily make that horse a bad one, but it might. Just like with people, we have to trust our intuition and trust that of those we love! Keeping them safe is the #1 priority. No matter how much you spent, it is not worth their safety or sanity!