No matter the driving force behind it, I see this trait show up in our treatment of animals in general. How many cats are forced to endure our attention while they display obvious annoyance, anger, fear?
Horsemanship on the other hand is as confusing about where to start and where to end, let alone the order in which to proceed, to students and teachers alike. To be brutally honest most teachers are just guessing their way through, while students wander through frustrations, injuries and brick walls they cannot overcome.
To me it seems obvious enough why the average age is 2 years for horses entering under saddle training, why many riders and trainers balk at the thought of waiting until the horse has grown to 4 or 5 years (or later) before saddling them and sitting on their back for the first time. I can see the reason why, but I don’t see it as a justifiable excuse.
In a perfect world the horse is connected to us through the reins, meaning that the contact we’ve established on the reins serves as the ultimate communication tool. There is no tension, simply touch and with it the power to execute energy through the horse at a moments notice.
When training the horse relaxation must come first. Anything we gain in ‘training’ without the horse being relaxed is compromised. Any measure of tension prevents him from fully committing to your request.
Now, the rub is that most training methods are built upon manipulating and maintaining some measure of tension in the horse.
The posting trot is a highly effective tool, when used properly. It lightens the load on a young horse’s back while they’re building strength and coordination, it saves the rider’s seat on long distance rides, is a necessary step in developing your position for jumping, and much more.
We might experience the same problem with different horses. Or when traveling to new places experience new problems that arise because we’re out of our element and that impacts the way we behave and interact with the horse.
What do you do with a horse who seems to be snoozing, relaxing, even napping… and then suddenly spooks!? Not only is it dangerous, but it catches us all the more off guard than spooking from an otherwise hyped up or highly sensitive horse.
I swear it’s hard-coded in our genes to respond to any hints we may be pulling or leaning on the reins with the shrill reply, “I’m NOT pulling!” In 20 years of riding I’ve shrieked that response more than once. It’s okay to admit making mistakes, it’s what we do with those difficult lessons that defines us, and please please please… learn to stop pulling on your horse’s mouth sooner than later!
The Half Halt… is it really as confusing as it seems? Endless articles describing it in vague, half-terms and hidden meanings. I don’t believe so, but for how simple it is it can be a challenge to understand and apply. Practice does make perfect…
“I do believe that there is a solution out there that is both responsible to these living, feeling and understanding creatures who deserve to be respected by not having to sacrifice their lives for our own purpose, as well as easing and appeasing the interests of those feeling the crush of their overpopulation.”
“My therapist tells me that if I share my issues with you I will feel better, so here goes: Can anybody around here ride in anything other than a flash noseband that has been pulled so tight it leaves a depression in the horse’s nose when the noseband is released?”
I’ll leave these wise men to explain the overall importance of simplicity and hopefully you may glean how it relates to the aids we use in riding.
If you want to be truly competitive, lauded for your achievements at awards ceremonies and even have a shot at Olympic Gold now is the time to learn Rollkur.
Heard of François de la Gueriniére? Okay, that’s good.
If you are unaware of what is termed “Rollkur” or hyperflexion of the neck, it is time you knew what has been plaguing much of Dressage and has been the subject of controversy since its inception.
Horse Talk.co.nz published a new story which talks about a new study that was performed showing that horses not only choose normal poll flexion when given a choice while maneuvering, their physiological reaction to stressful stimulation is comparatively lower when compared to their reaction while in hyperflexion.