Updated: Jan 25, 2022
I was once told that I didn’t have to “ fix” every horse I rode. Being a trainer that specializes in “ problem horses” this was a bit of an insult to me. I use quotation marks for problem because most “problems “ are a horse's attempt at the only way they know how to communicate. Problems can arise long before the rider is aware of the signs. When you are schooling your horse in the arena, you should be helping the horse almost every other stride. I’m not talking about nagging and pulling...I am talking about a quiet dialogue of keeping the horse balanced. Horses carry most of their weight on the forehand, riders spend much of their time unknowingly trying to keep the horse there. This creates a wheelbarrow type effect. The horse needs to learn to balance not only his weight, but that of the rider's weight over all four legs. In time, the horse will have learned that the power comes from behind, enabling them to use their back muscles correctly. When the horse is coming “ through” from behind, to the hand, they will have longitudinal flexion, balance, and correct use of the back muscles. Using a different group of muscles can sometimes be stressful to the horse, their main priority besides food is their defense system of fight or flight. Humans are the same way, if we have to restructure our posture, this becomes difficult and painful. Muscle memories are very tough to retrain.
Dressage exercises were not invented to make the horse look fancy, it is a specialized set of gymnastics that are equal to physical therapy, yoga, etc. for humans. Classical Masters did not dumb it down for anyone. The theory of “ If the head is down, the back is up” is too simplistic for horses that have developed incorrect muscles. Focusing only on placement of head and neck, creates, bracing anywhere from jaw to tail.
I offer video evaluation as well as problem solving clinics. Early detection of problems helps to identify and resolve any physical or functional muscle compensations. This is of course after the horse has been thoroughly examined by your Veterinarian.
Improving the horse's awareness of muscle use, balance, and coordinated movement will not only create athleticism but provide healthy, relaxed horses that look forward to their work.
Do I need to “fix” every horse I ride? The answer is yes, once you have experienced riding a balanced, light horse, you will never sit on a dysfunctional moving horse without guiding them to a correct way of carrying themselves.
"Dressage is the art of teaching the horse to carry you. Riding is the art of learning to be a good load to carry." -Quote by Richard Weis