It is necessary to understand the horse before we can hope to make him understand us.
Spending a couple of hours in the saddle daily is no qualification for judging the horse’s mind.
Having the gift of observation is half way to understanding your horses ways. Observing the horse in and out of the stall, while schooling, before, during and after rides, we are more likely to come nearer the truth.
The horse’s sense of observation is exceedingly keen. Little or nothing in his surroundings or during a ride, escapes his attention.
His memory is infallible. He never forgets places he has been or things that have happened to him. His sense of judgement is apparent enough in the way he weighs up the capacities of a strange rider, he then determines his conduct accordingly.
The horses reasoning power remains limited. For example, it is human stupidity to punish him half an hour or half a minute after he has done wrong. He would not be able to understand the punishment. The second after a horse disobeys is the time to reprimand him.
The presence of an older horse will quieten a frightened young horse. He will observe the older horse and follow where ever his elder may lead him.
Normally, the oldest mare will take over the herd, if the stallion is too young or not as strong minded as he would like to be.
Horses have a pecking order. The leader is normally found in the center of the herd while grazing. And, according to status the rest of the herd will organize themselves leaving the newest or weakest on the perimeter.
If you have to graze your horse with a herd of strange horses, it is a wise and careful move to first introduce him to another horse who has established himself and earned his place with the herd.
Give you horse three or four weeks with this horse to form an alliance.
When the time comes to turn him out with the others, he has a friend who is already known by the herd. Now his chances of getting kicked or bossed around a less likely. The very presence of his new found friend will see to that.
It is good to visit your horse frequently, particularly a young horse, to speak to him, pat him or sometimes give him a treat. Even if you were to simply adjust his rug, straighten his main or pick out his hooves. The horse enjoys the visits and they will make him more familiar, trusting and confident in the human treatment.
Confronted with danger, the horse will flee. Only put into a hopeless situation, will the horse bite or kick.
Horses have a very sensitive nerve system. This is why they are timid, shy and extra sensitive to
movements of any kind.
A horse’s hearing and feeling are more acute than his vision. But having said that, there must be no misunderstanding as regards his eyes. They are able to see in the dark and within a wide radius.
Another trait of the horse’s character is the herd instinct. A lot of noses and ears will detect danger quicker than a few. Therefore, horses seek peace and security in the herd.
For the domesticated horse, the stall or the stable has taken the place of the herd. This is why the horse tends to hang around his stall.
The Object of Schooling
There is a difference in riding the horse and schooling the horse.
Schooling makes the horse perfectly obedient to his rider and enables the horse to do what ever is asked of him with the minimum of effort and the maximum of grace. This is when the horse is in perfect balance between the riders hands and legs and is as light as a feather on the bit.
It is on the horses ability to understand and absorb that the whole system of his schooling is based.
Patience is a virtue when successfully schooling a horse. We should treat horses with friendliness, quiet determination, and complete fearlessness.
The horses hearing is very acute and it is senseless to speak to him loudly. He is very sensitive to the human voice, so speak quietly and softly to him. Only raise your voice slightly to correct him.
Young horses are un-supple under the weight of a rider. He becomes rigid, stiff and unbalanced. In many cases, the back is actually spanned upwards, which is a natural reaction to the muscles under the unaccustomed weight. Therefore, the back must be supple to do it’s work.
This is done by stretching the loins and driving the hind legs under for better support, and can be accomplished by lunging or riding. Lunging is beneficial, but this kind of work under saddle with a rider is necessary.
Quiet rides over natural terrain, ploughed fields, or uneven going teaches the horse to look where he is going and makes him good with his footwork. Riding up and down hills puts muscle behind the saddle, frees the shoulders, improves the lung capacity and the working of the respiratory organs.
Riding downhill brings the hind quarters underneath the horse and strengthens the loins and hocks. All of this work should be done at a walk. At this pace all of the muscles of the back and loins come into play most freely.
Ride with a long reign, leaving the head and neck free for their balancing swing.
The trot with a young horse should be brisk and fairly fast without bothering about rhythm or tempo, and without any attempt at collecting, bending or positioning the horses head.
Gradually, a gallop can be indulged in from time to time. A green horse will be unbalanced in a gallop and will lean on the bit for support. The riders hands should remain firm and steady.
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