Keeping a log is a powerful training skill a lot of people overlook. Without logs, you have to trust your memory. More often than not, your trusty memory gets to be a rusty memory and you wind up losing track of where you've been and where you're going. Logs are proof of progress you can turn to on those discouraging days when nothing seems to go right. They can keep you focused and on track so you make the most of whatever time you have to spend with your horse. And they can be a powerful tool for people to develop a positive relationship with their horse.
You can use a log to keep track of all sorts of information, depending on what your goal is. For example, here at Meredith Manor, we start students right off keeping a log of their training or riding time that they'll carry with them when they graduate. These logs are modeled on the kind of logs that airplane pilots keep. Students track how many hours they worked on different kinds of horses and under what kind of circumstances. When they go looking for their first job, they have a document that shows their prospective employers how much experience they have with Quarter horses or Morgans or with baby horses or finished horses or with reining horses or dressage horses or whatever. The logs are tangible proof of their progress toward their goals of becoming professional horse trainers or riding instructors.
Amateur riders can keep a workout log on their individual horse. Just like someone trying to build their fitness level might keep track of how many miles they jogged or how many times they were able to lift so many pounds, a workout log is an excellent way to plot a horse's progress. As you review the horse's log after several months, it might begin to show a pattern that you missed as you went from day to day. On those days when nothing seems to be going right, you can look back in the log to remind yourself that even though the horse seemed to be going backwards today, he really has been going forward since last week or last month.
A log can be as simple or as fancy as suits you. It really doesn't matter if you use a plain old spiral notebook or a fancy diary with a ribbon marker. The logs we use at Meredith Manor have pressboard covers and are sized to fit in a shirt pocket. They're easy to keep at hand to it's easy to keep them current. Regardless of what size or shape log you use, the important thing is to get into the habit of writing in it every time you work with your horse.
Log keepers can track of all kinds of information but don't overwhelm yourself trying to keep track of so many things that the record keeping becomes a chore. The basic information you track might include how much time you spent working the horse and what you did during that time. Beyond that, let your patience with detail and your purpose (are you keeping track of your progress or the horse's or both, for example) help you decide what other observations to write down. Some people like to keep track of the weather, the footing, whether the horse was feeling lazy or sassy and things like that.
The most important thing to write in your log every single day, however, is something good about your horse. Don't use your log to track mistakes and problems. Emphasizing these negative things just puts you and your horse down. Instead, take the time to write something good about your horse, something that the horse did well, or something you particularly like about him that day. Keep track of all the positive stuff, all your little daily victories, and your log will help you have a positive relationship with your horse. When you use it this way, your training log will be one of the most powerful training tools you have.