Classical Training: Working the Mind and Body of the Horse

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 10:06
Training Your Horse
Sarah Warne on Iota with trainer Miguel Ralao by her side

I was watching Miguel Ralao ride my young Lusitano Iota and at the end of the lesson he said, “tomorrow we should work him so he will mentally settle into this new environment and to create some consistency, but his body will need a rest.” I thought “how refreshing," a trainer considerate of the fact that there are two aspects to each horse, recognizing that often they are not at the same level in their development. 

I have spoken many times about waiting till the horse is ready, but we see 6-year olds doing flying changes when they cannot yet do a proper transition from walk to canter. 

We see this because the horse is mentally accepting and willing to begin certain exercises or but his body (either due to a lack of correct basic training or because he is late to mature), is not! Alternatively the horse may have developed physically very well early on. However his mental capacity to cope with training or his environment requires more time. 

Some 5-year olds can be ridden everyday, whereas others might only mentally cope with being ridden 3 times a week. Often the riders put their own goals or simply their own daily routines above the horse’s very obvious distress or inability to keep up. You often hear answers such as “but i like to ride everyday”, or “I want to compete next year in the 6-year olds and he is 6 so he needs to do it”, or “I like to do the same thing on him everyday even if he is bored out of his mind”.

It always surprises me how selfish we can be as riders. It’s a horse, not a car. While you must as a rider be respected and their are limits to how much the horse can dictate the situation, a good rider and a good trainer will know how to listen and feel what the horse is saying, not just in the exercises but on a much greater level. 

The rider should feel if the horse is saying “I can do it, but please mentally if you ask me again I am going to stop wanting to.” A good rider should know when the horse is pretending not to want to or is reaching the point where he truly isn’t physically or mentally fit enough to do it.

There are two aspects to consider with every horse, and neither of them have anything to do with our own daily plan or ambition.

Always remember to ask yourself whether or not, even if your horse might mentally be coping with the work, is his body prepared for it? Or if he is physically very mature is he just as strong mentally? Then adapt your training to him, not to yourself.

by Sarah Warne - Photo © private

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Classical Training: Work Off The Horse
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Classical Training: Controlling What We Can, Accommodating What We Can't
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