Training, working and riding horses in ways that are bio-mechanically sound means our horses have less pain, less injuries, better movement and are able to work with us productively for many more years. It doesn’t matter what we love to do with our horses, whether it is Grand Prix level dressage, eventing, trail riding or reining. Neither does it matter whether we are beginners or advanced horse people. Good and bio-mechanically sound training methods simply are good for us and our horses.
We don’t need to know how to obtain true collection in our horses and we don’t need to know how to do piaffe. We are all capable of working with our horses in healthier ways. The classical training path to true collection is one that keeps horses sound, even if we only go a short way along that path. Even if we never aspire to learn or do more than move our horse forwards, backwards and occasionally sideways, we can train it well in what we do. For it is how we train our horses that is important, not what we want to do with the end result. Keeping our horses healthy and happy requires good training, working and riding methods, so that is what we should do, as responsible and loving horse owners.
I like to school horses so that I have a healthy, relaxed and responsive horse that is capable of doing what I ask without ending up in pain. I don’t compete, I may or may not want to do piaffe one day, but I do care immensely about how my horse feels physically, mentally and emotionally. So I use training methods that are helpful for my horse to feel good, to be able to carry me easily, to stay fit and sound, and to be well and happy into at least its late twenties.
When I say ‘classical training’, I don’t mean some high falutin’ training method that will take you a million dollars to learn on some amazing European bred horse in some wealthy persons covered arena. Classical training includes simple and quite ordinary methods for working and playing with your horse that can be done in the paddock and can fit around and with whatever you like to do with your horse. Yes you will likely need to learn some new ways of doing things, but they are not impossible or even terribly difficult, they are just probably different to what you already know.
While classical training includes developing good rhythmic, forward and relaxed movement, vertical, horizontal and lateral balance (often called straightness), lift through the wither and back, telescoping the neck and strengthening the topline and the underline, these things are broken down into small and simple steps that anyone can do. And suddenly we are helping our horse to use its muscles and skeleton in ways which make the most of their anatomical structure and how they move; which allows our horses to move with strength, balance, flexibility and freedom with a relaxed mind and body.
The classical training path is a slow and steady one that allows and encourages our horses to develop bio-mechanically correct physical strength and balance, and also mental and emotional willingness, trust, calmness and cooperation. The rewards in the improved health, soundness and capabilities of your horse, not to mention its beauty, can be astounding. The rewards for both you and your horse are well worth the efforts of learning and using some simple new techniques in your usual daily practices and horsemanship.
Over the next few weeks I will briefly discuss some of the aspects of this training that can be so rewarding for you and your horses and which helps your horse be healthier physically, mentally and emotionally, which is what I am passionate about.