• VOLUME 62 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
With Tears in her Eyes
A western rider with a beautiful bay Andalusian/Thoroughred cross gelding. His past was as a trail horse and with him in her life she has decided she is ready for a new venture. She is interested in learning about dressage in the purest sense.
She contacts a veterinarian/trainer who also has an Andalusian stallion and talks her into taking her on as a new student.
This can be a daunting task, to change habits of a lifetime, but she proves to be an excellent student. She is patient in her expectations, understanding that this is going to take time both for her and her horse.
There is much to do, teaching patterning of how to move her body in tune with her horse on contact. Contact being a new concept. Her instructor has fun with her and they have a blast together.
Her instructor does amazingly well and the rider is pleased with her choice of instructors.
But her instructor runs into a problem....
...with issues of forward and lack of lateral bend, a problem that we unfortunately are seeing too often.
So she contacts her own instructor and they set up a team lesson where the rider gets both instructors to work with her and her horse.
There are riders and instructors who would look for the easy and perhaps obvious solution with a horse that is not forward. This instructor already had the knowledge and the experience of what happens when we insist on forward and the horse is in the first level of balance. She knew the answer was not to insist on forward with whip or spur. She understood that, from a training perspective, an insistence on forward would only exacerbate and emphasize the on-the-forehand postural mechanisms. Therefore she understood that insisting on forward with whip or spur was not the right thing to do. She understood that it was important to discover and resolve the root issue of why the horse was not moving forward with gusto. That once the core issue was resolved, the horse’s training would be easily advanced with the correct building blocks in place. The problem, of course, was discovering what the core issues were.
Observing the horse carefully, one can see your typical western horse. This horse wants to please. He does this quiet western jog. His head and neck lie flat with his back, even with the horizon, as he adopts the preferred relaxed headset of the typical western trail horse. The tiny steps of the jog are easy to sit for the rider, which is the intended purpose of the western jog.
Related Article Range of Movement
The first step in evaluating any horse is to evaluate its way of going. In this particular horse you can see that the quieter movement, combined with the depressed head set, especially for an Andalusian, has translated into a very specific problem.