16 June, 2019

Use feeling when training your horse

It is one thing to learn new techniques but what we really need to learn is feeling. The feeling is what matters most to the horse and the horse follows the feeling because it feels so good. You have to learn the feeling from both the ground and the horseback.


Feeling is the opposite of coercion

The word “feeling” is an expression of an attitude one should have when working with horses, not to resort to coercion, violence or intimidation to make them do what we want.

Although we ourselves feel that we are kind to our horses, we often use coercion and pain to get our will through. It has become so because we simply did not understand better and instead forced us to the result we want.

It lies in our nature because where knowledge ends, the violence takes on. We have the violence in us so we are so used to it that we hardly even think about it. Here are some examples:

We pull and jerk on ropes and reins, we put on sharp, painful bits when the horse doesn’t obey. We rap it with the whip, put on spurs and kick it to the side when it doesn’t want to move forward, and we put on side reins to force the horse’s head into a certain position. Yes, the list can go on.


“Auxiliaries” use force

If we need these so-called “auxiliary reins” in the form of martingals, gramant, draw reins, side reins, double English nose bands etc, we do not use feeling when training horses.

Often we have no idea how to train horses in other ways, but these coercive measures would not be needed if everyone knew that horses can listen and obey with their own free will.

You have to try to get into the horse’s situation and learn to think like a horse and allow it to make mistakes. It must be okay if the horse says no to your decision because it has the right to and is nothing to be punished for.

Learn to use the feeling so that the horse understands and asks it in such a way that it can succeed and believes that it is its own idea to do what you ask for it. If the horse does not understand, you need to change something, be clearer and slower.


Ride with harmony

One does not achieve harmony in the riding through  side reins, sharp bits or tightly tensioned nose bands. All forms of auxiliary reins can cause tension, overload damage and lashing. It brakes the horse at the neck, restricts the horse´s movements and is the enemy to flexibility.

An overly stretched nose band gives tension that often propagates to the jaw joints, which in turn gives rise to tension in the horse’s neck. The mobility is then reduced throughout the spine and the horse cannot give in to the neck and gets difficult to put under him. The riding ability deteriorates.

Horse dentists I met say that nosebands causes a lot of dental problems. A noseband should not interfere in any way so the solution is to loosen it or remove it completely.

The horse must be able to open his mouth if it needs to. It must have the opportunity to show if something is not right so that one can solve a possible problem. Horses often open the mouth in protest against, for example, an ill-fittng bit or against a strong hand.

Side reins and sharp bits are made to overpower resistance and force the horse’s head into a vertical position. The horse then uses the wrong muscles to try to get away from the influence of the reins and the bit, and this leads to resistance and strain injuries.

Emotional discomfort leads to physical discomfort and, in turn, leads to emotional stress. Forcing the horse to a certain position causes the horse to become frustrated and “unwanted behavior” becomes even stronger.

Riding with feeling and harmony means that the reins should not be a support when riding. The horse should always carry itself, just as it does in the pasture.

Many riders find it difficult to ride and keep the balance when they release the reins and this is because they have probably been used as support. The hand should never have more than one soft contact with the horse´s nose or mouth.


Then you develop feeling

Using feeling means increasing your understanding, becoming more skilful and more emotionally stable and in control of your reactions. It also means changing the way of dealing with the horse – from scratch.

It is a big changeover and just because you remove all the help aids you should not think that the horse immediately becomes cooperative. You have to start communicating with the horse in a different way, from the ground and then transfer it to the horseback.

Feeling is how you touch your horse, how to handle the rope and the reins.


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