IN THIS ISSUE
New training method takes a toll on rider and horse
RideAware Psoas Intensive
Riding With Your Deep Core
The Body Connection
Happy and Healthy Holidays to all our readers!
Gifts for Serious Students of the Horse
When You Buy
Lessons 1, 2 and 3
Together at a Special Discounted Price
Welcome guest author Allana Kereluk who will become a regular contributor to the Desert Horse website with a series we're calling "Notes From a Thoughtful Novice: The Riding and Training Triumphs and Tribulations of an Amateur Horsewoman." I think many of you'll enjoy her storytelling and relate to her experiences.
WHY I DON'T DO
NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP ANYMORE
It all started when I got bucked off my horse ...
Horses have been my life since childhood. Living on a 160-acre farm in Nebraska, and having a large animal veterinarian for a stepfather, was my perfect world. Lots of horses, open pastures, blue skies and leisurely rides – my own personal heaven on earth. After high school, however, reality set in and with a family, horses were a luxury that couldn't be afforded for almost 25 years until the last child left the nest. But, horse ownership had changed so much in those 25 years. And so had training. Something called “natural horsemanship” was everywhere, touting the notion that anyone could train her own horse to be the perfect partner, if only she attended a clinic, purchased the special equipment, watched the DVDs and believed.
And believe I did, for almost six years. I took lessons, bought or rented DVDs, went to clinics and purchased rope halter, sticks, hackamores, lead ropes. I purchased not one, but two, untrained horses, thinking I could train them myself. But, something else had changed in those 25 years too. I had lost my confidence to ride. I wouldn't call it all-out fear, because I could mount a school horse without hesitation and took riding lessons sporadically for several years, trying to overcome the lack of confidence I had in riding my own horses. Finally, the inevitable happened and after being thrown from my horse, the realization set in: I needed to stop thinking I could train my own green horse via natural horsemanship and get my horse to a professional trainer. (That adventure will be the topic of a later writing).
Giving credit where credit is due, natural horsemanship definitely is an improvement over the “breaking” methods of some traditional trainers. The techniques helped me gain confidence on the ground and taught me about horse personalities, reading body language and recognizing warning signs. The methods, even loosely followed, do work. Several trainers have told me that my horse, without a doubt, has the best ground manners of any horse they have ever handled. Because I was able to attain a measure of success, the decision to break away from natural horsemanship was not an easy one. I didn't know it yet, but, it was imperative for me to stop thinking “what would Linda Parelli do?” and start paying attention to what was really going on, for the health of me and my horse.
BACKING IS FORWARD MOTION IN REVERSE
MORE YOGA FOR HORSES
What's the key to backing your horse correctly? Why all the same things that are key to moving forward correctly: lifting the back, rocking the weight to the hindquarters, swinging the spine, reaching forward and down with the neck.
"Backing is just forward motion in reverse," was a quote I brought home from one of the few riding clinics I attended as a teenager. I don't recall who told me this, but the phrase has rattled around in my head for 30 years or so. It's only in the past decade that I think I really get it.
Picture all the horses you've seen - regardless of riding style - backing with heads up, backs hollow and steps somehow indistinct, without a solid rhythm. These horses need to be taught to engage their bodies going backward just like they should be doing when moving forward.
Backing in balance requires impulsion. That means the impetus to back can't come from the reins. It should be initiated like any other correct transition, by asking the horse to lift the base of his neck and his back and come into connection with the rider. Then it's pretty easy for the rider to use his seat to ask for backward motion. It just takes some practice and the intentional use of abs and psoas muscles.
I find it much easier to teach a horse to back under saddle if I take the time to help him learn to back correctly on the ground. And I start with the same exercise I use to create supple, elastic and strong backs, an exercise based on yoga poses known as “cat” and “cow.” (See Yoga for Horses: Exercise 1)
The Biomechanics of Balanced Riding
Back to Basics: To Bring the Head Down, You Must First Lift the Back
in trailBLAZER magazine