Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful festive season, and the fresh new year is bringing new motivation to get back in the saddle, and chipping away at your goals for 2021.
As a coach and rider, I often find myself getting a little obsessed and pedantic about the most basic little things, but as we all know, really nailing the basics lays a solid foundation for our future training and competition success.
Everytime we sit on a horse and give an aid, we are training the horse. The horse does not know what is a correct answer, nor does it really care, all it looks for is the response it gave, that made us leave it alone. Repeat that enough times, consistently, and voila!, the horse learns the pattern and response. This can be a good or a bad thing!
One of the biggest issues I come across, are aids that lack clarity, consistency and a clear outcome. This results in the horse becoming dull or confused about what it is meant to be doing, and we start to see all sorts of evasions.
I try to keep things as simple as possible, and live by the rule that there are only 5 core aids the horse needs to know. These are stop/slow down, turn and yield from a rein aid, and go quicker or yield to a leg aid. Of course there are many variations in the way these are applied, and as the training progresses they are combined and refined, but at the root of it all, the basic response is always the same.
When we start to see evasions creep in, you can pretty much guarantee, in the absence of any major rider imbalances, that it is the understanding of one of these most basic responses that is failing.
Peeling it all back to the most basic level, and addressing the gaps in the understanding, will then usually see the horse and rider continue to progress in a much more correct and reliable manner. These corrections must be precise, with good timing, and most importantly, heard and understood.
In order to do this though, the rider must be absolutely strict and consistent in how they ask, what they are expecting and what attempt they will accept. You cannot ask in 27 different ways for a response, accept 23 different half assed variations of the correct answer, and expect the horse to learn and the training to stick!
Horses are very black and white, and as much as we like to label them with our human emotions, they just aren’t wired that way. Their goal is to be left in peace, and we should always train with the aim of fulfilling this goal for them, through clear and concise aids. That is where real self carraige and lightness starts to happen, and the horse is able to gain confidence in its body, understanding, and not to mention, its rider!