There is so much controversy on which training methods are correct or which actually have a damaging effect on the horses physical and mental well being. Some methods effect the horse progressively while some take time to show up in the way of soreness, lameness, behavior and even health. Being a trainer that re educates horses physical and mental state means keeping my own mind educated and sharp. All training should have one thing in common and that is empathy for the horse. The next common ground all trainers should have is knowledge of how horses function biomechanically.
There are many riders in the world today but few that can create a balanced, straight, cadenced athlete. Less and less riders are investing in educating themselves to know how to correctly prepare a horse for the demands of tasks they are being directed to. We just buy better horses or believe that if we have been taught to ride and are fearless, we can become a trainer. Horses are incredible teachers but you must think about knowing the theory of why you are doing what you are. It bothers me to watch a rider so ignorantly working a bit so strongly in the horses mouth. Do you have a theory behind why you are pulling your horses head side to side or to it’s chest? There is scientific proof that this has damaging effects on the horse. If a horse is taught correctly to flex at the poll with gentle contact, he will seek that comfort and not resist. This takes time, education, and patience. On the other hand, a rider that is allowing the horse to move ” naturally ” is also creating physical abnormalities. A horse isn’t born to naturally understand and know how to carry a rider in a correct balanced way of going. If the horse has not been trained to ” self carriage ” under a rider, it will develop it’s own compensation of balance. You can observe so many horses that do not bend in direction of travel ( not just nose ) , do not have a steady rhythm, fight the bit and all contact. I am not just referring to arena work. All disciplines of riding, including trail riding, need and require the physical preparations for the horse to be and stay comfortable. The unbalanced, incorrect horse will eventually develop a physical and then behavioral dysfunction.
I have several horses that I maintain on trails and I always need to check in with them on schoolwork. By schoolwork I am not just referring to tarps, swim noodles, etc. I am referring to their physical well-being. I will school them in all three gaits as well as sophisticated gymnastic exercises. These horses have been exposed to bear, moose, elk, coyotes. I must admit I have panicked more than the horse when faced by the bear and moose. I would like to say without insulting any methods that there are no ” games ” to play with the horse to prepare for what you may be faced with. It is a matter of true connection knowing how to steady your horses mind and body with the least amount of effort. I personally think the ” games ” can give a false connection of confidence. I use Sacking out methods with timid horses but then build their confidence by making them comfortably balanced under a rider. Confident trust means making the horse first physically comfortable, then mentally.
If you are a rider, you are a trainer. You are either going to make the horse correct or incorrect. If you have a horse that needs help, find a knowledgeable trainer that wants to take the time and patience to create a better athlete. These trainers may not have awards and trophy’s but they have an education of correctness. Trainers taking shortcuts to keep owners happy are detrimental to the horse. I am not referring to trainers that actually spend too much time with groundwork, etc. with no results. Horse owners need to educate themselves so they know what is considered progress and what can actually hinder the horse. Studying biomechanics of the horse is the best training you can provide. Just as horses are not born with a knowledge of how to naturally carry us, we are not born to know how to correctly prepare them for what we ask. If you are reading any blog regarding horses, you obviously were born with a passion for them. Do not allow yourself to become “dumbed down” to the methods that seem to be working to the naked eye.
” Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down and beat you with experience”
– Mark Twain