The Training Corner
September 2022 addition: I have stated my firm belief that Horses are Honest. After competing in the Mongol Derby and riding on horses that are still as pure as the times of Chingiss Khan; I will state more emphatically - Horses are Honest!
My true awakening of how horses should be cared for and how to be properly ridden was passed to me by very experienced people. Some famous, most not. But one thing was constant, the basic foundation of classical riding and the care of horses. Classical Riding is an oral tradition passed through time though a few documents have survived. The first book written in 401BC by Xenophon The Art of Horsemanship, contains the first glimpse of how to care and train a horse. The last historical writing pertaining to classical riding is by Alois Podhajsky, The Complete Training of the Horse and Rider, is a very detailed account of how to train up to grand prix level. This method has NO gimmicks, NO quick training and NO fancy widgets you need to buy in order to become a good horseman. You do not need to win ribbons (and spend countless amounts of money) to prove that you are an excellent rider. You do not need a lot of money. What you do need and I cannot stress this enough, is time. The saying from Alois Podhajsky, “I have time.” is the most valuable lesson and commodity that is needed.
On this page, I will write about some of the basic riding lessons I teach that are foundational to a good seat. I have humor added in because, like raising children, training horses needs a sense of humor.
This picture illustrates proper seat: Shoulders/hips/heels in straight line. Straight line from bit to elbow.
There are articles that will be added soon on how to ride that all riders can use!
How to choose the right Instructor for You
Choosing an instructor that is right for you can be stressful and how do you know that this one is right for you and your horse? Here are a few factors to consider that will help you in any discipline, on any horse.
Choosing the right instructor for you and your horse!
1. The first thing to consider is an honest appraisal of your riding level and what you want to achieve.
I am terrified every time I tack up my horse but really have no reason, how do I get over that?
I am stuck at First Level and can't seem to get past this, do I need a 'better horse'?
I have a horse from a great line of barrel racers but I can't seem to get a good time, why?
2. Talk to riders about whom they recommend and why then go see the instructor during a lesson.
Listen to the instructor – do they talk in a manner in which you understand?
Are they trying to impress the rider with their knowledge or actually teach a point?
Do they try to have the rider improve on everything all at once?
Do they use gimmicks such as “use this fancy stick to get them to behave” or use this tie-down to fix this issue? (Remember, less is more and training takes time, less tack means more communication with your horse)
Do they show the student how to do whatever they are teaching is supposed to be done on the horse that is being ridden?
How do the horses react around the instructor?
Watch the instructor ride their own horse, they should ride in a manner that you want to emulate.
These are very important points to consider since anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves an instructor. Some have 'papers' showing they can teach. The proof is in the outcome. How many of their riders have improved or will give testimony that this is the best instructor ever?
Remember, there are no quick fixes. Riding skills is athletic and takes time to build the muscles in the rider and the horse. If you are dedicated, you and your horse will benefit.
3. Research the internet, you will find the right instructor for you. Meanwhile, watch horses in their natural environment and learn their behaviour so you can understand them.
The oldest preserved manuscript of riding, any riding, is from Commander Xenophon of Greece. His book, Hippke or The Art of Horsemanship, was published in 430BC.
Insights on the training of a knight, a manuscript that wasn't completed but is good reading from Dom Duarte of Portugal, circa 1438, Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela ("Book on the instruction of riding well on every saddle")
A brief history of classical riding from a trustworthy source, Sylvia Loch of England, Dressage: The Art of Classical Riding
And finally, for me, this book covers all that you need to know in how to train a horse and rider, Alois Podhajsky, former director of the Spanish Riding School in Austria, saviour of the Lippizans, The Complet Training of the Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship.
Videos to watch
Perfect practice makes perfect. This saying was spoken to me by 2 people, my first classical riding teacher, and my bagpipe teacher. It sounds like an oxymoron but it isn't if you think about it. How do you make perfect practice? With a good coach who tells you "remember that feeling and all the muscles you used and the response you achieved with your horse!". Also, watching the best of the best. Dr. Reiner Klimke is whom I watched as I started my classical riding career. He was one of the last Olympians who trained their horses from green to Grand Prix. Here are a few of my favorite clips.