The Hanoverian Mare I am re educating is trained to FEI level. This is the highest level you can take a horse in Dressage training. I wish I could say I am impressed. Instead, it completely saddens me and keeps me aware of the harm that comes from shortcut training in hopes of becoming a true Dressage Queen ( or King ) She never did make it to competition.
This mare began to refuse to do anything, even being caught. She reared up at every chance possible. Her eyes were in a trance like state, if you unexpectedly pet her anywhere, she would flip out like you pet her with a taser. She was lame on her left hind and would not canter on a lunge line without exploding. I was excited to fix her, it was going to take some patience, creativity, and consistency.
First step- Ttouch for awareness. You cannot ride a horse that has been shut down mentally and physically, they will only think with their defensive instincts. Fight or flee…This made her aware of the trust she could have with me, allowing me to catch her, sometimes it takes some convincing but now she approaches me and looks forward to what the day brings.
Second- General Decarpentry methods of in hand work. Not so pretty at first but taught her the correct coordination and proper use of back muscles. I did not want her head curled in but rather flexion at the poll and longitudinal flexion when relaxing the rein contact.
Finally – Riding. Started out with rear after rear, she was obviously confused and this defensive reaction tends to scare many riders., I am sure it worked in having a quick dismount from the rider ( Rearing is dangerous and unacceptable but sometimes the loudest shout a horse can use to defend themselves ) Riding her is like steering an airplane…no bend. No knowledge of bend. I use a leg aid and it’s rear, ask for a circle and it’s piaffe, ask for trot circle, must be passage. She is like a robot that is guessing and attempting to impress, let’s not forget halt to walk is definitely a cue for Spanish walk.
I am making huge progress by going back to square one. Let’s have forward but in rhythm and relaxation ( Cadence ) She was ridden with a gadget that forced her head in a position, but with a curb. She is a big mover, very athletic so I am sure the need to control that energy was enforced. I am using exercises like shoulder fore and shoulder in to slow her down and get the correct lift and use of back and hind legs. The lameness is gone. When I give the reins at trot and Canter, her head swirls around, barely noticeable but she does not know what to do without that hold. I have been riding her with a loose rein, I can’t carry a whip to educate her to properly bend because whip=piaffe work
So my point is this, please do not rush the horses training by being impressed with false movement. The horse needs to understand what is being asked. They deserve freedom and correctness, they are not machines. They need to be taught correct use of back muscles, proper engagement of the hind leg. This horse was trained to such a high level because of her Breed, her athleticism, her heart of gold, and desire to please. There was no regard to the damage that was created mentally and physically. She is an example of why I love helping horses with behavior issues. When you can set them free and awaken their mind from defensive instinct, that horse will never forget you, a bond has been created and you will never forget the horse.
I would like to share some things that really stood out to me in some recent articles in The Horse Magazine
The horse is not born as an animal that carries weight, the rider has to educate the horse. Many people do not understand that. Horse breeds have improved, but has Dressage ? Dressage is a dance, anyone who is balance can dance much better.
– Susanne Miesner
Challenge yourself to become a better person and a better rider
– Debbie Mcdonald