The good work
How to work a horse in order to keep it healthy. Some advices for good training
Sporting results, which are almost always linked to economic success, are not unfortunately always associated with horse-friendly training.
Many riders have lost sight of the meaning of horse riding, attending competitions has become the main focus and their horses are merely the means to achieve this. As such the true objective of the rider, i.e. correct and progressive training of the horse, takes second place and it is the health of horses that suffers. That's why knowing the basics of proper training and deepening our knowledge of the culture of horses allows us not only to keep our horses healthy but to achieve and maintain in turn the competitive objectives we set ourselves.
Over the years we have witnessed the birth and development of various training methods but the only ones that can be considered valid and successful are only those which take into account both the psychological, physical and physiological bases of horses in general and those specific to the particular horse we are training. In practice, you have to respect and enhance the natural qualities of the horse.
The "time" factor has been one of the basic elements of training from classic to modern times. Without calmness and without time it is impossible for any athlete to exploit all the possibilities of their body and physique, while remaining healthy. We need time to discover and to learn about the unique characteristics of a horse. It takes time for a rider to increase their knowledge and to learn how to use the aids effectively and correctly. It takes time and patience to prepare the horse correctly from a psychological and physical perspective with the aim of preparing it for competitions and keeping it healthy until its later years. To create the horse/rider pairing therefore requires a lengthy apprenticeship.
A good rider cares first and foremost about their horse's health and considering that the horse must also carry its weight must ensure that the horse moves with ease, free from tension and forcing. This looseness is recognised by the fact that a trotting horse moves rhythmically, covering ground, without rushing and with a tendency to lengthen its neckline, pointing its nose down and leaning against the hand, and by the fact that it pushes its back flexibly while holding its tail in a natural position. The looseness of the horse is a precondition for the success of all training. A horse that is ridden with its neck forcibly bent with its chin towards its chest inevitably stiffens the entire musculature involving in an extreme manner the back, with damaging results for its mental and physical health. An excessively hard hand and prolonged and strong action on the reins have a very negative effect on the whole body of the horse.
Conversely, a relaxed back is assumed for natural movements with all basic gaits, for stretching of the muscle along the back and therefore for the comfort of the horse and rider. Bear in mind that horses can spend many hours with their neck lowered and stretched out in front of them and with their nose on the ground; in nature, in fact, they spend from 17 to 19 hours in search of food.
To achieve a loose and relaxed back, the horse should move in a relaxed manner, thus with its neck stretched out and tilted downwards. In this way the push generated from the rear flows until reaching, through the mouth, the rider's hands.
When horse and rider are in harmony with one another and learn to communicate through very minimal and subtle aids, the rider can even concede use of these aids, letting the horse complete the action with balance, pulse and constant rhythm. Reaching of these objectives allows the best riders in the world to achieve "stellar" performance from their horses where they know how to interpret every communicative signal.
In order to train the horse while respecting the anatomy and locomotion in order to train a horse in health, serenity and comfort:
- We should not continue to watch ourselves while we ride. Many riders pull on the reins to obtain a rounded horse and to achieve a good external image that they believe they are creating with their horse. It’s a big mistake.
- We should seek harmony and relaxation. Riding is a dance, a body to body action that requires great flexibility.
- We should allow the horse's head and neck to be free. It is the horse that must find its balance and assume the neck position that is more comfortable for it.
We must be aware that any artificial and forced position causes stiffness and pain in horses.
- When the horse finds its balance and its rhythm, its back moves and relaxes. The rhythmic movement forward is essential for relaxation.
- Horses need head and neck freedom to relocate their balance that has been compromised by the weight of the rider.
- The good seat is the result of a lifetime of learning