Horse Training

Paladine, a 3 year old Friesian in shoulder-in.

Paladine, a 3 year old Fresian in shoulder-in.

My overall approach in training is to enhance the well-being of the horse.  Secondly I aspire to create beauty and perfection like  that of a painting.  This is what we consider to be the equestrian art, a form of riding where the conversation between the horse and rider is on a higher level.  The horse responds to the slightest hint of the rider’s aids absent of any contraction or tension in either horse or rider.  It would compare to watching  ballet  where the movements are fluid and graceful.  Despite the wispy appearance  that  a person performing ballet may have, it requires great strength and suppleness to perform so beautifully.  Hence a horse too must possess both strength and suppleness to perform movements effortlessly and gracefully.  Of course many horses will never reach a primo ballerina level, nevertheless I believe in making each horse the best that he can be by making him functional and comfortable in his mind and body through strengthening and suppling exercises.

Because I studied the French school of classical dressage I seek lightness in all of the training  methods.  I employ methods by  Francois Robichon  de la Gueriniere, Francois Baucher, and Nuno  Oliveira all from the French classical school.  I wholeheartedly agree with Nuno’s thoughts about training with gentleness.  He did not advocate heavy-handed methods and warned against brutality as a detriment in the training of the horse keeping in mind that his memory is astounding.  It was very important he said to pay attention to the horse’s memory.  Care should be taken to create a positive mental state  It is always more difficult to undo issues created by; mishandling.  I know from experience with the many horses that I have trained.  They sometimes come with emotional issues that are never forgotten.  Then  they must be handled cautiously keeping their mental status in the forefront of your approach in the training.

With lightness always in  mind I use the following methods or variations of them in starting the horse.  Various exercises in dismounted work makes it easier and less complicated for the horse to learn without the weight of a rider. Lunging if needed will create forward movement in the horse  necessary for lightness.  I may also employ Baucher’s jaw flexions with a horse that has a strong resistance in the jaw. If there is contraction in the jaw lightness is not possible.   Work-in-hand is an exercise  I use extensively to introduce lateral movement as well as establish the position of ramener.  Work-in-hand is a most useful exercise in flexing all of the joints including the jaw.   When the groundwork is satisfactory I move on to walk, trot, and canter, mounted while also employing the mounted shoulder-in which is the most basic movement in dressage.  After shoulder-in then the rest of the lateral movements are introduced to further supple the spinal column of the horse.  It is the lateral movements that are so effective in making the spinal column supple.  I find that nearly all horses  are able to do the lateral movements which will greatly enhance their function and comfort.  If this is as far as you want to go in the training, you will have done a great service to you horse.  Beyond that comes the more advance collected work if you want to proceed further.

Demure, a warmblood in piaffe

Demure, a warmblood in piaffe

Granito at the fair 1

Granito performing Spanish Walk during an exhibition.