Many of our new clients or clinic attendees express that our training programs are often quite different to other methods they have experienced or utilised previously.
We thought we would take the opportunity to introduce ourselves, our principles and our training style with some informational posts.
Firstly, let's look at our training goals and WHAT it is that we would like to achieve...
- we want our horses to be RELAXED. By this we mostly mean comfortable in what they are doing and not in a heightened state. When the horse is 'relaxed' they are in a good head space for learning, the associations they have with the task being performed will also be positive if connected to positive feelings, this promotes the likelihood of the horse to want to replicate the task.
- our horses should be AWARE, we do not want to shut our horses down or 'desensitise' them into a submissive and closed state. It is possible for our horses to be awake and aware, to acknowledge pressure and utilise conditioned or taught coping mechanisms or responses to disperse or redirect anxiety and tension. This means that our horses do not have to fear pressure or new challenges, allows them to think and be proactively involved in the partnership as opposed to simply following orders.
- when our horses are more SELF-CONFIDENT they are able to utilise taught exercises and postures to re-centre and re-balance themselves both mentally and physically. We often feel the desire to placate our horses when they are struggling, particularly if they have been exposed to previous trauma or are predisposed to being over-reactive or sensitive in nature. Developing self-confidence removes the need for us to placate, placating may work short term and with a limited amount of pressure but is not a reliable training tool, when we placate in times of raised tension or anxiety we are often forced to remove pressure which can result in a learned response, it is also not always possible for us to remove the offending cause. It is far more effective to teach safe and more healthy coping mechanisms.
- teaching good BALANCE means that our horses can comfortably and efficiently perform routine tasks on the ground and under saddle without feeling vulnerable. Being unbalanced makes the horse instinctively, a target for predators. By asking our horses to engage, collect, circle, flex and bend, alongside carrying a rider, we are prone to unbalancing them as these movements are products of training and somewhat unnatural when performed routinely and repetitively.
- a large focus of equine training is to have our horses ENGAGED. For us this means both mentally and physically, training body and mind simultaneously. Relaxation, awareness and self-confidence, target the mind. Physically, positive postures, balance, alignment and hind end engagement are generally what we are referring to.
- STRAIGHTNESS is linked to balance and often grossly underestimated or misunderstood. Horses are naturally asymmetrical so bear uneven amounts of weight on each limb and each section of the body. By teaching our horses to be straight we allow the freedom of energy and weight shifts through the body which creates fluidity and looseness and improves balance and body control. A crooked horse cannot engage or stretch, will hold tension and may become uncomfortable or sore through compensation in overloaded areas or muscles.
- by enabling all of the above we make it possible for our horses to be RESPONSIVE.
If the horse is able to perform a task more easily there will be less resistance and therefore improved responsiveness and reduced reactivity or sluggishness.
- by encouraging mental and physical development we enable the horse to achieve what is being asked, again, without resistance or tension. If the horse is strong enough in body and mind and understands what is being asked they are more likely to be WILLING.
By allowing our horses to be mutual participants with open lines of communication and adequate preparation we may very well see our horses offering more than asked, this is unlikely if your horse has been conditioned only to be obedient and follow orders without any self expression, self-confidence or self-carriage.
- and of course, the ever elusive SELF-CARRIAGE, the pinnacle of many of our training goals. But what is self-carriage? Simple, the horse is able to efficiently carry themselves. What does this mean for us? That magical feeling of effortlessness, floating and fluidity, without the need to nag, micro-manage or constantly correct. This ties in closely with SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-REGULATION, all of which help us to create a thinking horse rather than just an obedient horse which is much more versatile.
In our next related post we will take a look at WHY these attributes are beneficial to us and our horses!
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CADENCE HORSE TRAINING
Striving to maintain an encouraging and inclusive culture among fellow equestrians. We're passionate about all things equine including behaviour, biomechanics, training and horsemanship!