Saturday, 27 February 2010

The journey to nowhere

It all started off pretty simple. When I first sat on a horse I quickly decided that for my own safety, I needed to be in control of the situation. I worked out that my horse had a few ideas of his own, and in some situations he even insisted on putting his ideas in to practise. This was sometimes fun, but not always.

Then pretty soon, a whole load of theories about horsemanship came into view. First I came across join up, after which the horse would be only too happy to do whatever I asked - oh, but I might need a pressure halter. And then pretty quickly a whole load more stuff came trucking along. Before I knew it a huge industry was spawned, all centred around this special relationship between man and the horse. Now suddenly, there was lots for me to think about. Am I the alpha, or perhaps I'm not? Is my horse right brained or is he left brained? Is he introvert or is he extrovert? Or, god forbid, is he the 'used one? Heck, this was starting to get complicated.

And then came the books, the endless books, telling me about this deep and meaningful relationship, but mysteriously, somehow not quite telling me how I can get to it.

But for the last few years I've been looking at my horse and wondering. And I'm standing there thinking, 'Nah, he doesn't care a jot about any of this stuff. He just needs to feel safe and know I'm not going to do anything too dumb. That's pretty much the same as what I want from him really!'

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Understanding the Bit

I am beginning to think, in fact I now know, that this is a really rather important job, and it is one that often gets rather overlooked. The first thing is, if you don't understand the bit how the hell is your horse going to understand it? There are obviously lots of different opinions about what the bit is for and how to use it and so on. So you have to decide all that before you start. If you understand that the bit is something that you use with force, ie have pressure in your hands, then you have to train your horse to accept that force. If you want your horse to travel behind the bit then you have to set that up too. I personally don't think either of those two options are the best way to use a bit. Both of those ways are 100% counter productive, physically and mentally, to what I want to acheive with my horse.

So, bearing in mind the way that I want to ride my horse, here is my understanding of the bit. There are three simple things I need to set up with my horse: a) the bit is a boundary through which the horse must not go, b) the bit is how I tell my horse where I want him to put his head, and c) the bit is a source of comfort to my horse. Once those things are in place I am in business.

Firstly, setting the boundary up. Well that's fairly straightforward. Never let the horse push the bit around, or lean on the bit, or put weight on the bit in any way. The horse needs to carry himself, in balance, and that is not a balance dependent on you holding him in place.

Secondly, I want my horse's mouth to follow the bit wherever I move it to; left or right, up or down. I want this to happen without resistance from the horse or the use of any force from me.

Thirdly, I want my horse to be comfortable with me using the bit. I don't want my horse to be frightened of the bit, or to be running away from the bit by going behind it. It is important to me that the bit is always right there, comfortable in the horses mouth. This is where I need to work to have a good reliable and consistent nice feel in my hands, that the horse can learnt to trust and love.

If I get all this in place, without grey areas in my or the horses mind, then things can start to really settle down. I am pretty sure a huge amount of horses anxieties come from illogical stuff happening in their mouths.