Saturday, 23 April 2011

The two ways to train horses.

Surely there must be more than two ways to train a horse. Well, I don't think there are. You either train the horse to accept restriction or you train it to work in freedom. You might think that there is a spectrum between those two extremes, but there isn't. There is a spectrum of restriction, ranging from simply appalling to not too bad. But freedom is freedom, it isn't on a spectrum and you are either doing it or you are not.

One thing is for sure, it's quicker and easier to train a horse to accept restriction, and if you measure progress by what the horse can do, you might even begin to think that it is indeed the best way to go. Walk, trot, canter, hack, hunt, jump, or even do some fancy moves. You can get your horse to do all this pretty quickly by holding it in place. Once the horse has accepted the pressure of the bit in his mouth, and the power of the riders hands and legs, then all he has to do is surrender and go wherever he is pulled or pushed.

I guess it is fairly obvious that I don't like that system of training very much. I can see it suits some people's needs, but the thing is it's not very good really, is it? The horses might be doing a semblance of the job, but there is always something wrong with how it's being done. Because of the restrictions the horse has no natural balance, so his movements are always, at best, going to be slightly wrong. I mean, think about it, if you take away all the physical support from the rider and the tack, could the horse still do all that stuff. Let's face it, he wouldn't have a clue. The restricted horse is trained to accept the movements that the rider physically makes him do.

To sit on a horse that understands to travel in balance, and happily moves to the smallest ask - now that's what I call a nicely trained horse. And producing a horse like that, now that's what I call good horse training.