The Training Process
Our horses need to know how to relax in the box, underlying insecurities or nervous tension preclude the uptake of learning. They must also understand stable rules. No pushing out the door or trampling the handler. Nor must they invade personal space, manners are important and are regulated daily. Grumpiness and a bad attitude are usually indicative of rough or inappropriate treatment; we treat our horses with sensitivity and understanding.
It’s really important that horses learn to stand to be mounted. Ours are taught to stand at a block, only moving off when asked. We have two people to do this initially, and consistency is the key. Horses are herd animals, they prefer to move around in a group, however they must be comfortable hacking out by themselves. At first there can be lots of wobbly steps and plenty of calling.
Our task is to help instil confidence and an understanding of what is required. We can achieve this by always riding them forward. It is paramount to ride horses forward at all times. This can so often be misunderstood by the leisure rider.
Horses also need to know how to behave in company. We make sure they remain non competitive and are happy to ride in different positions. It’s surprising how reluctant they can be at first when asked to go alongside another. We teach our horses to be independent, while paying attention to the aids. These are taught in combination. Steering is related to suppleness, which is improved through an understanding of the leg aids.
Forwardness is taught through balance and an ability to maintain rhythm. Giving the horse a mouth is taught through longitudinal suppleness, this is also a preparation for canter work later on. Control of the shoulder is our ultimate aim, and we work towards this through leg yielding, lateral bending and neck reining.
Training our horses is a complete picture consisting of many elements. We don’t do this work in an arena, preferring the real world, which helps to gain focus and enthusiasm, not least for us! The advantages of training this way are many and varied, they see life and learn to cope with the unexpected in different weather and across difficult terrain.
Cobs especially can become stale and switch off going round and round in circles and it’s easy to introduce an element of worry working in a restricted area. We plan our work so our horses stay happy and alert. We mainly work in rising trot. This allows the horse to get the feeling of moving freely underneath the rider without hindrance. We regularly change diagonal to ensure even muscle development. When we sit, we do this lightly without boring a hole in the horse’s back, and then we can check how soft it is and how straight the horse is either side of the ribs.
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