Basic training is common for horses in all sports. Here are the main rules
In riding there are some basic rules to be respected when working with horses, whatever the level and discipline that we practice. Knowing these rules is crucial also if we are novice riders. We must, in fact, limit ourselves to send requests, and then do only what we and our horses are really able to do, always starting with simple things and then progressing only when our level has improved. Therefore, we must always be aware of what we are doing and if we are doing it well or badly, even in the smallest things, those essential to get started, such as starting to gallop, turning, or stopping.
We start from the principle that the horse should move forward freely, calm, serene, and well-balanced at all three gaits. The right work helps the horse to develop mental and physical abilities, improving its natural attitudes and making it nice and easy to ride. Work is what improves performance, be it a simple ride or a small competition. The work associated with physical training makes the horse stronger and confident.
When horse training is done properly:
- It stimulates the desire of the horse to go forward
- It develops its natural abilities
- It develops the lengthening of muscles and decontraction, making its body more loose, fit, harmonious.
- It increases stamina
- It allows the rider to have control and empathize with the horse.
Here are some key rules to follow, in order to work well with a horse. These rules apply to everyone, at any level.
- Avoid shortcuts: horse training takes time, effort and patience. Shortcuts, such as the use of auxiliary harnesses (draw and running reins, etc...) or strong bits, should be avoided because they develop resistance and create problems in horses.
- Progression: the training cannot be executed according to a schedule that follows predetermined timing. It depends on the progress achieved. The rate of progress varies depending on the skills, experience, and general characteristics of horse and rider. Even when we follow an established program of progressive exercises, we have to be very flexible and always adapt it to the needs of the horse. It is the horse that tells us what to do, or whether it has understood us or not. Let us listen to it.
- Reward: one of the most important concepts underlying ethology-based training, and then training based on the study of horse behavior, is the reward. Horses, like us, must be rewarded and gratified. When they do well and execute our requests properly, rewarding them is crucial. The prize may be the caress, a treat (a carrot or sugar cube), a break when working with long reins, letting them nibble some grass, and then going back to work. We have to teach horses to recognize and accept our aids through clear and precise actions, and then help them comply. If we behave properly, horses understand. If they do not understand, we have to recognize our mistakes and correct them. The use of force is to be avoided at all costs: it makes misunderstandings worse and only creates difficult problems. We need to understand the character of the horse from the beginning and apply correct behavior and actions.
- We need to get results through persuasion and not coercion that generates fear in the horse. If a horse is scared, it will not learn. Our purpose must be to secure the cooperation of the horse with rational methods and sensitivity, but always with mutual respect. This way, the horse learns to respect the authority of the rider and to stay in control.