Give them a job and everything changes.
There are so many great things that happen when you start putting a horse to work.
We often see young horses that don't want to stand still, are impatient in the trailer, and otherwise struggle with down time and rest time. I have also seen many horses that are in the pasture for a number of years or even just the winter that have a hard time standing for the farrier or tied up for different reasons.
But what about the horse that works everyday, has a routine, and starts to get sour? We think they already have a job, so why is there an issue now?
Think about your job. Do you do the same repetitive work in an office everyday? Or do you get to try new, creative activities regularly? There are pros and cons to each of these types of jobs, but the reality is we all need to have both, and in moderation. Personally, I cannot work in an office sitting on a computer all day. I zone out and my productivity decreases rapidly. On the other hand, when I am given a new task every day and have to process, plan, and create something new, I cannot use my time efficiently. There has to be a mix of both regular, expected tasks and creative, stimulating work that I can spend time improving without immediate distraction of another new project.
The same goes for both horse training and daily work for the performance horse. In the beginning, we set up a program where the horse is learning something new everyday and continuing to improve it's previous lessons. It is usually very clear when a horse starts training how well it is doing right away. Their focus and patience improve quickly. Sometimes, they can go right into cow work if they are bred for it. Other times, that step is too big and they need to process and improve at the basic lessons they have been learning.
What I see with some horses that do the same arena work everyday is boredom and burnout. If they are not learning something new, but only drilling the same lessons in order to perform the same activity, we actually start seeing some resistance and possibly decline in performance. The horse is telling us it needs new stimulation. There are so many things we can try and my suggestion is to learn a new discipline. Even at the lowest level, it will get you and your horse thinking and moving in a different way. A number of years ago, we took my Mom's older warmblood Eventer to cow sorting practice and he was moving like a young horse again. Taking horses on trail rides is good for both their mind and conditioning, especially after winter.
One more thing I want to mention is to be careful with young horses. If they want to work, please don't hold them back. Do all the things and work hard to improve your riding so your horse can continue to grow and improve. It will pay off in the long run, and isn't that the goal?