So trying to describe my training philosophy with a few words is hard.
To me the most important thing is a horse that is a willing participant in the training. It all starts and it all ends there. Not everything we do is necessarily on the top of the horses list of perfect things in this world, but I always want horses that meet me at the gate to the field. Not because they have learned to come through pressure and release but because they see what we are doing together as something they want to be a part of. So if my horses are not interested in training, it is time to take a look at things and turn them around.
The next really important thing for me is choices. Our horses live in a human world and in the end we have to have the final say. I want my horses to feel like they have choices in their everyday life. Because of this my horses feel safe to tell me when something is wrong. The hard thing with horses that show how they feel about things is that I have to set up the training right. The good thing is that to me there is nothing more fun than to ride a horse who wants to play with me, who comes with suggestions and who is working together with me.
The next important part is that our training should not destroy the horses body, but help them move in a healthier way. This is why I started learning about the Academic Art of Riding.
Academic art of Riding
Academical art of Riding studies the knowledge of the old riding masters and uses it in the modern world. To me it is a never ending journey into the horse and human body and mind. I am using the same techniques in movement as I do in massage treatment. Working with dressage both in riding and from the ground looking for new dimensions and details in the training. Riding for me is a never ending journey going deeper into the seat slowly becoming more one with the horse.
Training as a part of treatment and treatment as a part of training
My favorite way of working both with horses and people is to combine massage treatments with training. Some problems are easier to fix in movement and some problems are easier to fix with massage. When mixing the two I work the horse in movement, then do treatments on the part of the body where I see the strongest effect in training. By going back and forth between the two I can work with the part of the horses body that gives them the most problems. Same with humans, it does not help to tell a person to relax their shoulders if the only thing they can do is force them down. Their shoulders will be right up again as soon as it's not their main focus.
When working from the ground, mimicry is one of my favorite tools. It is efficient, fun and gives the possibility to work on new stuff with very little frustration.
Body language is the beginning and end of everything we do from the ground. Most problems I meet on the ground come from people asking for one thing with their body and another with signals. This is especially true for lunging, I almost never meet horses and people having problems without body language and mixed signals being the reason.
What do our horses need? Horses behavioral needs are social contact, eating time and movement. When we are housing our horses in a way that does not cover these needs we get chronic stress, stereotypical behavior and very often also behavioral problems.
Knowing how learning theory works and being conscious about what behaviors we reinforce and what behaviors we punish is an important part of successful training.
Are you thinking about what emotions your horse is experiencing during training? Are your training mostly in positive emotions like play, care and seeking or on negative emotions as rage, fear, panic and frustration? Trying to see and understand your horses emotional state during training will give you the information you need to set up training so your horse wants to participate.
Did you know that learning something through play is faster than learning in other ways? I always try to bring out play in the horse during training if I can, and if I succeed, the training is always more efficient.