The success or failure of a horse's career can largely, if not entirely, depend on the strength, thoroughness and dependability of its Foundational training. If a horse has learned to be pushy, be argumentative, be afraid, or be tense, those will forever be stumbling blocks as their sport career, working career, or recreational career progress.
1. "Go West young man, go west!"
The number one thing we can do for a horse, the "king pin", is teach it to move away from our signals and various pressures. Fortunately or unfortunately I have a lot of experience in filling in the gaps for confused horses who are struggling with life in general. The struggle always boils down to them not understanding how to move away from a signal, whether that's a leg, rein, or seat signal, and no matter how significant or insignificant we believe that signal is. These failures range from something as simple as not moving away from a halter "signal," the worst examples of those are a horse dragging the human around from grass patch to grass patch. Or as bad, pulling back while tied. Then there's the maybe a more obvious issue to some people, which are issues in the saddle; not changing leads, not stopping well, not accelerating well, or not collecting well. These all are because of some issue surrounding the horse's knowledge and understanding of what to do with tactile pressure, that one thing did not get addressed well in their Foundational training, and it rears it's ugly head when we're trying to teach the horse more advanced maneuvers. Appropriate signal response is the first of the four very important parts of a horse's Foundational Training.
2. "If you are aiming at the top, consistency is the name of the game" ~Olawale Daniel
The second most important piece of a horse's success, is whether or not it had consistent training, or consistent boundaries during it's initial Foundation training. The place we fail horses most certainly, is our inconsistency in our expectations. Inconsistency for a horse creates uncertainty, and uncertainty leads to anxiety and all sorts of issues stemming from that during training; from excessive emotional sweating, to pushing on or running from the bridle, to all forms of rigid reactive behavior. Horses desire consistency so much, that they create trails in the ground; trails out to feed and trails in to water. And if something happens to that trail, for example a tree falls across it so the herd has to take another route, it stirs the entire herd up. Consistency equals safety, and when a horse feels safe they learn better, faster, and more efficiently.
3. Tik-Tok, a watched pot never boils, so take the time it takes
The next most important piece of the puzzle, is that you need to have an appropriate timeline for that individual to accomplish the learning process so their positive behaviors become "set." The time line goes bad in two different ways; to0 short with too high of expectations, or too long with too low of expectations...it's the Goldy Locks Rule, not to short, not too long, it needs to be "just right." When a horse does not have consistency and an appropriate timeline, their comprehension suffers and their understanding of the world they live in is mediocre at best, resulting in a horse that is 1) constantly battling with you on who's leading who 2) You are constantly, emotionally holding them together because they are in a constant state of confusion whether to move away, or move into, pressure (your signals), or 3) the horse is not consistent in its response to your signals/directions.
4. "To be found is to be exposed. No wonder so many of us are still lost."~C. Lounsbrough
The fourth and final part of a horse's foundation, a piece often overlooked in the recreational horse owner's eye, is Exposure. In my opinion there are two parts to exposure; 1) different environments and 2) exposure to at least one sport or discipline. Hauling your horse places is a huge part of training. It keeps their world from closing in around them and making it to where they are only content when they are in their stall or in their pasture. And finally, exposure to at least one sport or discipline gives focus to their training period, the horse then at least has one good set of skills to operate under. Developing solid, specific skills in a horse will make sure they can be successful and have a "friend" no matter where they end up in life.
If you don't understand the importance of the four pieces of a horse's Foundational education, you will end up paying for it in all sorts of indirect ways, and sometimes the cost is really high. If a horse doesn't know how to properly yield from tactile pressure on it's legs, and one day becomes tangled in wire, vines, a gate, you name it...his chances of surviving the incident with no injury are slim. If all you've practiced or been consistent with, is the "One Rein Stop" where you take your rein to your belly to "disengage" your horse's rear end which swings it to the outside, into your outside leg, the next time you put your outside leg on for a turn your horse is going to push into your leg, not move away from it (so forget even trying a lead change!). If you've crammed on your horse, or as bad, you've never put the time in, he's going to be worried or he's going to be argumentative whenever you give a direction, it's that simple. The price of a poor foundation is your safety and enjoyment, and your horses comfort and sanity...and as a horseman, there's nothing more valuable than that.