The theory behind working a horse from th ground
The method Canterbury has outlined on another thread for dealing with a horse fresh to our yard is almost identical to that which myself and my friend employ when we take on a newcomer. We simply don’t trust all of what has been said about the animal by the previous owner/handler. Sometimes we are presently surprised but often we can see a problem in the horse that we have not been told about. It is up to us to seek out any problems the horse may have acquired – perhaps through accident, incident or poor schooling.
Working the horse in hand in the arena – and we have a full sized sand arena - is the only way for us at the beginning. We might not have a saddle that fits; we won’t know about which bit to use. We are well aware that the horse may be nervous in new surroundings away from its mates. The only way to go forwards is initially in hand and then, as soon as appropriate, on the lunge line either off a bridle or a head collar as seems to be the best way for that horse. The eventual use of the pessoa helps to encourage the horse to work itself properly and thereby to help build up muscle Mostly we have to teach the fresh horse how to respond to lunge work. So little and often is an appropriate expression. I personally, seek for the horse, whilst on long reins, to respond to voice commands and gestures as well as the reins.
It will be planned to work the horse seven days a week at around the same time of each day -in order to give the horse the concept that it is ‘going to work’. This work becomes an essential part of the horse’s daily routine. Yes, sooner or later the horse has to be mounted – but not before we have some indication and confidence that it will behave itself. The idea is constant progress – forwards - we want no regressions. Most cuts of English saddles are not designed for rodeo riding.
Eventually we shall work mounted from the saddle but by then we shall know the level of control we are likely to have by using the mildest of bits – invariably a linked snaffle.
One day – maybe a few months down the line- we shall take the horse out of the yard and onto the lanes. I always prefer to do that in hand, so that the horse can see me alongside him/her. My friend usually moves up a step and does it mounted in company with another horse – but we are aiming in different directions. She seeks a dressage horse which will carry itself in a rounded outline, whereas I am seeking a horse which can cope with the outside world.
I’ll usually walk for the first time with two of us holding lead ropes attached to a cavesson or a stallion halter. We shall go into the village and cope with whatever is thrown at us – lorries, dogs, garden machinery, noise, washing, plastic bags, etc , etc, etc. If we encounter serious trouble then we will cut the walk short and return to the yard.
Eventually when the horse has been re-backed and has a properly fitting saddle, I may well walk the horse under saddle into the village – accompanied by a helper. If I can arrange it – I’ll be the helper and a good rider will have ‘offered’ to sit the horse for its first walk into the community. The purpose of this exercise is to give the horse the confidence of my presence. To tell it that it is not alone and that there is nothing to fear. Of course, I am lying to the animal. There is a lot to fear if it breaks loose from me. What I need to find out is what might cause the animal to even hesitate, so that I can work on it.
We proceed in stages – occasionally reverting to earlier procedures, but every now and again we will drop something completely new into the horse’s training.
At some stage, I am going to have to ride the horse for the first time – unaccompanied. I recognise that something will most likely happen which will frighten the novice or rescued, or recently backed horse. Nevertheless I shall have to cope on that first ‘solo’ ride into community with whatever occurs.
The horse has eventually to become confident enough to be ‘bomb proof’ – or the nearest we can achieve to that much miss-used term. There’s no such thing as a alive bomb proof horse. Some of the sharp sports horses never make the grade. The best for my purposes is a horse with some common cold blood in its veins – preferably a cross breed of warmblood/TB with a cart horse’s cold blood. I seek a kindly horse with confidence and common sense.
I am well aware that every time I take a horse into the community I have to have as close to 100% control as I can obtain. At some stage in a walk out, I might find my self clinging on to a frightened horse in a village street. So far I have managed. There have been a few incidents but only one worthy of being called a disaster – but that’s another story.
We still have one horse on the yard which ‘sailed’ thru his indoctrination to the outside world. We have had a couple, each with a fancy pedigree, who took time to school and in truth are fit only for work in the enclosed arena – for the time being.
As a horse and rider in Britain I have virtually the same legal status on the highways as a cyclist –who rides an inert machine with pedals, brakes and handlebars. But if we, as a horse rider wearing day-glow jerkin, on a horse bedecked with day -glow and wearing a large red L (for learner) plate get it wrong, then the horse will be liable for third party property damage. I might even pay the price of over optimism by a trip to the accident and emergency department of the local hospital. Whilst hopefully some bystander will have caught the horse and returned it to the yard.
Most of the adverts placed nowadays in the UK by aspirant horse owners seem to ask for ‘ a bomb proof’ ride – “how?” I often ask myself do they think you create a horse fit to ride in a twenty first century semi urban environment.
Sitting a runway horse out on a moor or common presents the hazard that the rider might fall off – however get it wrong in a village community when the horse, whirls and bolts is a different deal all together. Luckily most horses with the temperament for hacking learn with age and experience but someone has had to give them the fundamental training. Horses aren’t born traffic proof. I don’t care if someone thinks I am chicken for not jumping on a horse’s back straightaway – I believe the horse gains confidence by being able to see me and recognise me at horse head level. Teaching that same fresh horse to recognise the aids I give it when mounted, is another chapter in its education.
I can see it becoming a legal necessity in Britain to having a licence to ride in the community and to have public liability and personal health insurance. I suspect that all that holds up the legislation is the fact that the police do not want to know the problem of enforcement.
All of us horsey folks who ride, have to adapt to the environment in which we ride and for the reason which we ride. We also have to cope with the varying temperaments of the horses we choose to ride. What suits one trainer, will not fit with another trainer who seeks a different outcome.
The biggest problem in handling a horse from the ground, is that it calls for the skills of doing so to be acquired – just like most things with horses.
Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 08-24-2012 at 08:17 AM.