I have just done the final filming session with one of our Aspire Video Library test-riders. I will very much miss our training but we need to focus on riders fully committed to Aspire programme to really present what the programme can do. Magda has been great to work with but declared to be happy with most of her training at the time saying she was happy with her competition results. She wasn’t prepared to make more changes so we needed to cross out some core elements of Aspire training. Nevertheless, I liked the rider and the horse and their drive to improve. I do believe in being relatively flexible in training approach at times and Magda bravely agreed for her progress to be made public so that alone was a proof to me that she was ready for a challenge. The rider remained fairly open-minded and gave her best during the sessions which made for a very enjoyable experience.
My initial training plan for the rider assumed a lot of work aimed at balance and suppleness (in-hand and ridden) but due to rider’s training beliefs we needed to alter that.
We did, however, went through all main points and started addressing stiffness and a holding seat in the rider to help progress towards more feeling, stable yet more supple seat which in turn will be eventually able to balance the horse without unnecessary tension. Long way still in front of Magda but considering the amount of training she did on these elements I think she made a good effort and showed proportional results.
This very interesting article caught my attention the other day. I really recommend the read and would love to hear what you think, do you agree?
“McLean said horses that feel a closer “attachment” to their trainers will have a stronger sense of security compared to those that feel less attachment. As a prey animal, an insecure horse is a fearful horse, and a fearful horse is a looking-around-and-not-paying-attention-to-his-trainer horse. So a lot of what might seem like “horse whispering” as well as all sorts of touch therapies might really be “horse attachment.” The Horse
Let’s say your horse or pony is heavy in your right hand…or jumps to the right of the jump most of the time…or finds it difficult to leg yield away from your left leg…what if you could tell many of your training issues by observing your horse’s feet? What if you could reflect on your training and adjust it by understanding the shape and angle of your horse’s hooves?
The exciting thing is, if you wanted to, you could 🙂
When I run my virtual coaching programmes I always ask for several photos of horse’s feet at pre-described angles. This helps me understand the basic biomechanical challenges the horse has and in turn helps me enormously with putting together training plans for the riders.
I also ask for rider’s description too of course but seeing horse’s feet first allows me to compare what the horse “feels” with what the rider thinks that the horse “does”…
I noticed that my notes on this caught a lot of attention among horse owners who bought my training so I thought I would elaborate a little on the subject.
Let’s chat about the front feet…
Shape of the hoof
The horse’s foot changes throughout its life. All four feet of a horse are different from each other, due to environment, exercise, trimming and active stimulation of the foot. And even wild horses’ hooves are all different, which makes it impossible to use them as a gold standard.
Whatever you might want to say about bananas, they are very useful educational tool. In fact, their natural born crookedness is somewhat perfectly suited to explaining the basic idea of one-sidedness in the horse to novice or young riders…
Superimposing a gently bent banana onto a horse’s back in such a way that it reflects a hollow and bulging sides of horse’s back/ribcage gives an immediate and strong albeit basic, visual representation of what is happening under the rider’s seat.
A realisation that a horse cannot work under the rider in a crooked state and remain healthy is to me one of the most important facts to learn by any rider, whether one that will hack for pleasure or one who will go on to compete. For this reason I teach the concept to children and beginner riders from the word go.
Bananas are also handy when you need to explain in very simple manner why it is not a good idea to use your outside rein to pull your horse back on the track after he drifted away.
Riding concepts are full of often complicated explanations or secretive silence. The idea of riding your horse in balance might not be easy to execute but should not be made more complicated than necessary.
When I read the below article by Buck Brannaman I thought that’s a good example of an explanation by someone who really understands the idea…
Have a read, you won’t regret a few minutes with the below words whether you are a dressage rider, show-jumper, eventer or happy hacker…:
“Forum contributors have declared that every rider should be able to watch a trainer and decide whether or not that trainer’s methods suit them and their horse. A valid point, but, we must not forget that the majority of BD members are made up of grass roots riders, with prelim and novice being the most well supported BD classes. Therefore, is it not the responsibility of British Dressage to present their membership with trainers who embrace the scales of training, the welfare of the horse and importantly compliment the examples set by our current Olympic champions?”
This convention is not organised by British Dressage who instead is running its own National Convention with…Adelinde Cornelissen. I admire her journey from a school teacher to international dressage rider in the same way I admire and feel inspired by anybody with passion, drive and courage to go for their dreams. I am also all for learning from various sources. However, I don’t agree with sacrificing legacy and welfare over results. Sadly, Adelinde is one of the riders who use rollkur training method.
Having a horse with many issues is both heartbreaking and enlightening. Many athletic, healthy horses or extremely good natured, laid back ones put up with huge amount of training and management abuse without batting an eyelid. Now, if you have a horse with a plethora of problems who is unable to move in correct movement sequence when badly shod, when having side reins fitted, when saddle sits not quite where it should do, when you don’t sit straight…consider yourself lucky.
Horse with physical issues that are not a lameness and that eight different vets feels helpless in identifying opens your eyes so wide they never squint again. Even better, you start seeing a miniature version of those issues in horses that have no problems as such with their bodies but that are trying their best to communicate an issue without exposing themselves to danger…
One vet a few years ago told me that it’s interesting that we rarely see horses that “complain” upon a small physical discomfort like a person would. They get on with it, they adapt their way of going, way of holding their bodies so that whatever discomfort they feel is minimised. It’s a nature of a pray animal not to show its weaknesses and instincts often override thousands of years of domestication.
Over time they strain more and more structures until it’s no longer possible for them to hide the fact that something is “off”. By the time this happens though, the intricate patterns of compensations have become like a labyrinth with many twists and turns and it takes thorough veterinary examination to find the real centre where it all started and where the treatment will be the most successful.
Little ex-race horse is making slow but steady progress. She now moves away from touch when asked on both sides of her body (although as you will see on the video below, going from right to left is still more difficult for her than from left to right).
She also now calmly remains on circle on both reins without turning in or falling out, the latter being a problem on the right rein not only because of balance issues but due to her need to be with other horses and dragging Magda there as much as she could. She stopped doing so which is a good sign of her accepting her work without stress.
Together with the heat come flies and some are rather creative in their variety. For this reason the work is at times challenging both for the horses and for handlers!
I am including a video of Estima learning to yield to pressure on both sides and move around the handler.
On the Hay-Net’s Equestrian Advice page, one member have recently asked a question about loose schooling and mentioned that her horse lunges well but it can get repetitive and boring. You can see my own and some other replies to her HERE but as it’s quite a common issue with many horse owners I expanded on the subject a bit more below.
I like to think of lunging as a crookedness-banishing part of training and as such it is a fascinating training tool.
Before you start more purposeful lunging, teach your horse turn around and on the forehand in-hand. This will require some body language training as well as gymnastic training. If you are not sure how it should look like have a look at this video: