Knowledge is an important part of learning to ride. We can learn about our horses mind’s and how to empower them. We can learn about our horses ” natural ” habitat and believe we are creating a natural environment in our training methods. The best rider’s and trainers are the one’s mastering the horses physique, creating a functional athlete. Studying how they need to be prepared both mentally and physically for the demands of a rider. This goes for any type of riding as it takes a properly functioning horse to create balance. This type of knowledge requires a sincere dedication of learning and understanding how the horse moves bio mechanically and how we can offer the best comfort and ease mentally as well as physically. To rehabilitate a horses mind and muscles that has been allowed to move dysfunctionally takes both skill and patience. We as riders need to understand that it is a slow, concentrated process to get to the finished picture. If we are trying to start with the finished picture of what we think the horse should be, we are missing out on being more than just a passenger on our horses back. Having a knowledge of how we can negatively affect or positively influence the horses movement and balance places us in a unique relationship of unity and intuition. I will dedicate this blog to rider’s in particular refusing to deepen their knowledge and allowing their horses to be forever enslaved to fitting into a system.
It’s important for your horse to be comfortable in his work. If you are not sure if your saddle fits, ask a professional for help. Always begin by setting saddle on horse without a pad. The pommel should not be touching the wither. Place your hand on inside of bars,, if it feels super tight, it is hampering movement of horses shoulder.. You don’t want the bars ( or gullet ) too loose and wobbly either. Now test the saddle with pad and tightened up, standing in your stirrups, place your fingers between the saddle and wither, when you lean forward, there should be no pinching, that is what your horse would feel, check for pinching in the bar area too. Bit fitting is extremely important, as well. A bit that is too narrow for your horses mouth will pinch the corners. One that is too big will move side to side and cause soreness. If a horse has been ridden with poor fitting tack, just changing does not always solve the problem. Horses can become deeply traumatized by pain. Horses will develop incorrect muscle, causing pain, leading to survival instincts. A horse will shut off their brain, submitting just to survive. This will cause heavy duty baggage.This takes knowledge, time, and creativity to fix. You will need to develop and coordinate correct back muscles with sophisticated body movements. Treat the problem at the level of athletic development. As long as physical pain is still present, no psychology training will work. Fix the muscular pain, then the memory. ____” A gifted horse will lead a good rider to victory, A great rider will give to the horse the gift of soundness” Jean Luc Cornille, Science of Motion.
When I am called to evaluate a horse’s behavior issues, I begin each call with questions of feed, health, and environment. Evaluating a horses diet is a huge part of a trainer’s job. If a horse is poorly fed and in poor condition, then a good quality hay along with added grain or supplements will be necessary. On the other hand, if a horse is acting out with high energy, neurotic behavior, just completely out of control, chances are, it is receiving way too much high protein feed. Horses store energy in their tendons, mind and muscle. This is a protective ability allowing them to run from predators long distance, without tiring. When a domesticated horse is given large amounts of grain or high protein supplements, then contained in small areas without much exercise, this is a recipe for disaster. It can create neurotic behavior that leads to vices such as cribbing, aggressiveness, just plain stress. Health is most important factor, questioning, is the horses teeth correctly floated? Sharp edges make it difficult for the horse to comfortably chew. Is the horse current on vaccinations and deworming? This is just a short overview of a four part series I will be writing. It is to include tack fitting, feet, and how the horses spine along with muscle compensation can create ” hidden ” pain that leads to behavior issues and then finally lameness issues. Listen to what your horse may be trying to show you. Stubborn and lazy is not in his vocabulary, there is always a reason he is misbehaving.
I used to refer to horses that were misbehaved as fixing ” problem horses ” I absolutely love to help horses and their owners find a safe, trusting relationship. Now that I have furthered my education with a class named Science of Motion, I refer to this retraining as rehabilitation. Horses have the most amazing defense mechanisms which have helped them to evolve. Most horses will turn their emotions off, ” shutting down ” so they can deal with a circumstance that may be causing discomfort. Even something as simple as poor saddle fitting.This starts with one small problem but then the shutting down of emotions leads to wrong muscle movement which leads to compensation, etc etc. As most horse owners find out, purchasing that new saddle, did not fix the problem. Why? because once the horse begins to use muscles incorrectly causing abnormal movement to protect themselves from pain, they have created a muscle memory that they cannot delete by themselves. Massage and chiropractic are helpful to the horse until he walks away or is ridden again. The horses mind and muscle memory need to be re educated. The popular method’s of forcing the horse into a frame that rider’s believe is a shortcut to a ” supple, obedient ” horse is only a shortcut to lameness. More and more horse owner’s are feeling discouraged by the time they spend riding their horse, always seeming to be a job, not an enjoyment. It’s important to educate yourself as a rider, know the physique of the horse and how he needs to be properly prepared for the demands of Dressage movements, jumping, or even heading down the mountain with a western saddle. Empathy, not submission is the foundation for any relationship.
It makes me sad to see how rare it has become to teach a beginner rider or one that needs to overcome bad habits using the longe line. This is a method that can be used in all disciplines of riding. The purpose of teaching with longe line is so the rider can develop correct position in the saddle without having to control the horse or get in the way of correct use of his physique for the demand of the movements. Depending on the rider’s position or tenseness, different exercises are used to establish correct position and develop feel for the horses movement. Keeping our spinal alignment in coordination with our horses, allows them to use proper rotation for turns, lateral bending and longitudinal flexion. For instance, a rider who’s weight is being thrown to the outside, interrupts the correct muscle energy needed for the proper rotation of the spine. When an instructor is able to teach the student correct balance as a foundation, this in turn helps the rider to learn what a balanced horse feels like.
Horses are very sensitive but because of their amazing defense mechanisms, they are able to turn off pain or circumstances that interfere with their comfort. Allowing riders to learn without developing the proper seat, coordination, and balance, it becomes unfair to both horse and rider. It takes knowledge to prepare these horses for correct movement with the weight of a rider, no matter how large or small, it can be harmony or interference.
Horsemanship is a skill as well as an art. Both skill and art become faded when less and less riders are taught the coordination and preparation to correctly maneuver the horses body.
____A horse is a thing of such beauty……none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor.
-Zenophon, on horsemanship