How much should you plan your ride?

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

In life some people like to plan things out in detail, others like a general plan, and some like to go “Fly the seat of their pants.”  When you “Fly by the seat of your pants”, you decide a course of action as you go along, using your own initiative and perceptions rather than a pre-determined plan or mechanical aids.

So what works best for horsemanship.  In truth, a plan (at least a general plan) is your best bet.  Sure, when riding horses you must be prepared for changes.  You must be able to move and act in the moment to help you or the horse through an unexpected event.  Here are five reasons riding with a plan really helps.

1) Having a plan can improve the safety for you and your horse.  If you plan to ride in the arena and tell someone so that if you do not return at the right time — they know where to find you.  If you tell someone you are going for a ride wherever the road takes you and you get lost, injured or do not return on time — people that care will be worried and have no easy way of finding you.

2) Having a plan can help you stay out of the rut (fixed boring routine).  When you ride if you plan to do something new today, that you did not do the day before it allows you to track how often you are making sure that the horse is being worked equally.  IF you always warm up and take your circles to the right, you might get into a boring routine and that can actually be damaging for your horse — because you are forgetting to make sure that the muscles on both sides of the horse get worked equally.  Variety helps increase your communication ability with your horse.  It prepares you to be able to get through new things with your horse because you are a team.

3) Having a plan helps you develop new skills.  Let us face it friends…we all have many things on our minds.  Sometimes we forget what we had for breakfast the day before or even that morning.  If you develop riding plans, going so far as to put them to paper or notecards, you are better able to keep track of what you have been learning or what you have been achieving.  As a trainer, I know that I cannot always remember every detail of what I want to teach or what I have learned with a particular student or horse…so I make a plan to make sure I fully challenge and engage each student and horse.

4) Having a plan can help you track your progress.  If you develop a riding plan for the week or month, of course we know it will change, but having some of these things written down will help you see your progress unfolding.  For those days when things did not seem to go well, you can look at your long-term plan and remember just how far you have come along with your horse.

5) Having a plan helps you solve problems.  So many times when we run into problems we are lost for what to do.  We go out the next day and hope it is fixed or we find ways to avoid the problem.  Take the time to plan how you will address the problem you are having and then work with your plan.  Of course there is a need to be flexible but having that plan helps you to be prepared, both in mind and in body to work with your horse to get the two of you past the issue.

Now, please understand that I know horsemanship needs to have the rider/trainer not stay on a path or a plan if it is not working.  Of course you always need to readjust your plan or change it for the situation, horse or issue — but I promise you that having a plan will help you make progress.

As always…I look forward to your comments and additions.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (


One thought on “How much should you plan your ride?

  1. Highly agree Michael, Make your plan, work your plan and stick to your plan! I have added “Simplify” your plan. A good working plan for training, instructing, show preparation and travel for sure saves having those hair pulling frustrating days.

    I am schooling a 6 year old, 2 year old, yearling & weanling. I have to cover everything from serious refining of movements & centered riding to advanced ground work, to introduction ground work and baby desensitizing. My work plan binder is numbering as many pages as a Harry Potter book.

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