Teach your horse to relax

It frustrates me when people ask for a horse to be a ‘confidence giver’.  When we ride we broadly expect to be able to direct the horse’s energy.  A basic knowledge of psychology tells us that our mind affects our body and our unconscious reactions. When we are with horses, especially riding, any body tension in the rider will be felt by the horse.

It is a circuit: the rider’s mind impacts the rider’s body. It is connected to the horse, so the horse feels our response.  The horse will translate our tension – or confidence, or determination –  through their body to their mind and then of course react.  Some horses are bred to be more alert and are sharper to ride, and all of them have a hard wired response to flee danger..

We need to help our horses to relax and trust us when we ride. One of my dressage trainers, Bill Noble,  stressed to us that we needed to teach our horses to relax by always being calm, clear and consistent.  “You can always add impulsion , but you can’t take away tension.. . ” was a mantra to ride by.

So, in my humble opinion, we need to give our horses confidence and build their trust in us,  not expect them to put up with our nervousness!  This is a step by step process, starting with understanding the stresses on a  horse, taking time to build your relationship, and above all – to keep learning.  Watch good riders,  observe at clinics, volunteer at big events, improve your balance and fitness, train with coaches that really understand how to produce a sound and calm horse…. It’s a journey, stay positive and enjoy it!!

 

 

 

Bringing on, backing or breaking?

The most important event in a horse’s life is how it is first backed and ridden away. Yet, in our quick-fix world, it is still taking time for people to abandon the idea of ‘breaking in’ young horses. They are impressed with quick results, with no understanding of the need to build a foundation for the long term. Working to develop the balance of a youngster and understanding their personality is more important  than obeying the rider.

For me, natural horsemanship’s pride in joining up and backing a horse in 20 minutes, is a short cut too far.  It focuses on submission rather than partnership and understanding,  And it also does not work too well with the sharper temperament of a bright, fit thoroughbred or warmblood type!   Horses need time to learn to re-balance and use their bodies differently with a rider.

When  simply backing youngsters we take at least 20 days over the process.  This allows for a gradual introduction of the different steps.  The horse has time to mentally process the developments day by day. They are then turned away for a couple of months, then ridden again and so on, allowing their bodies to grow and adjust to the changes.

Its just like the old story of the tortoise and the hare….