Teaching a horse versus moving a horse
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, March 17, 2022 05:57 PM
Erik Herbermann beautifully pointed out that A rider is a control center that tells the horse what to do..., not a mover of a horse. The challenge with this concept for humans is a horse may not understand/want/able to do what is asked of it. You know how parents rather clean up their children's room them make their children do it. Easier, right! :) Same with a horse. A human jumps in to do it! Working with a horse on explaining, teaching, assisting, correcting, insisting... is sooo tedious and may not produce fast results. Plus, the rider may not notice how, while she is busy "helping" her horse in the wrong way, rider's body gets out of alignment, balance, becomes stiff, etc... I call it - A horse half halted the rider instead of the other way around.
Like a spoiled child such horse learns that his rider will do it, he doesn't have to. When a rider is busy doing it she will have hard time observing what exactly her horse is up to. The horse "places" his rider to his liking (balance wise) to move in a familiar way not in a new, "weird" one. Training is delayed, derailed, stalled or abandoned all together...
The signs that riders are doing the work and not the horses are:
  • Excessive/forceful movement in the seat - more movement then horse's own back
  • Sudden tension to "catch" some wrong actions of a horse, prolonged tension to hold a horse in certain balance/movement, line, frame
  • Reins are holding/pulling, contact feels dead/stiff
  • Hard, long pressure of the leg/s to push
  • Leaning opposite direction when applying one rein
  • Excessive leaning in to turn or go sideways
  • Strongly applying one rein to "move" a horse into new direction
  • Leaning forward to start going, leaning back to stop
  • Pulling a rein across the neck
  • Many more...
Humans have a bad habit acting upon a horse like it is some sort of furniture.There are several aspects that can contribute to such mistakes - rider's balance, riding skills, fitness and also mental attitude toward the horse, the riding, the progress.
Many riders struggle with ability to place their horse as needed in terms of alignment, balance, energy, frame. I am one of them! My horse, Santo, is quite wiggly and over the years he has learned how to place me rather then I place him. I also see this in my students.
There are so many books, articles, Internet sources on how to ride a horse but it all boils down to the rider's ability to carry his/her posture/balance/frame independently of what the horse is doing. My instructor said to me on numerous occasions - look like you are riding perfect canter no matter what your horse is doing (bolting, bucking...:).
When riders lack skills they often resort to physical attempts of making a horse do what they want. That is why progress is much better when riders are lunged at first to learn to control themselves before they can start guiding a horse. Later it is very hard to fix bad habits picked up at the start of riding education.
A rider can have good basic riding skills of physical nature and still lack mental ones to be a successful "control center". Developing them takes time, effort, good coaching and most importantly always remembering that a horse is a living creature with his own brain and ability to move his own body. A horse must be carefully nurtured, progressively educated and physically developed. It must be taught to stay focused, understand the cues and respond to them. If a horse responds incorrectly or not at all a correction must follow and it is very important to understand what to correct and how so a horse can learn. Allowing horses to figure things out, making mistakes so they can learn from them, having a messy ride sometimes is all part of the process.
Horses move their bodies, riders job is to teach them to move it a certain way.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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