Training a Horse the Classical Way

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Training a Horse the Classical Way

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  • Portuguese classical way of training horses
  • steps in portuguese classical riding

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    09-05-2009, 01:38 PM
Training a Horse the Classical Way


Well, my Joe is a very distinguished looking horse with a shiny dark bay coat, a lush salt & pepper coloured tail with matching mane and four, furry feathered feet. He’s a big boy. The trouble is that he is not elegant - he is sort of “handsome“.
An elegant Thorobred is measured from the top of its wither to the ground and that is how Joe gets to be 15h2 (i.e.15x 4inches + 2 inches = 62 inches). But the highest point of Joe’s body is not the wither behind his neck but the top of his butt just in front of his tail. In other words he slopes forwards and down from his croup to his wither - whereas all classy horses slope from the wither down to the croup. (Croup is the posh word for butt). Obviously this means that Joe carries his weight mostly through his chest and down through his front feet to the ground whereas those classy trained Thorobreds carry more of their weight on their hind legs. Joe is set to pull; Thorobreds are set to push.
Now if we were to see Joe as a cart horse - which we are not even going to think about - that would be OK but since we see Joe as a Gentleman’s Hack, it is not OK. Something has to be done. Somehow instead of Joe walking with his rump in the air, we’ve got to get him prancing along on his hind legs with his head in the air. He’ll then be light and agile. He’ll walk tall. So, what to do?
Well along came the nice lady from the Classical Riding Club. She knows about such things because Lusitano horses from Portugal are themselves quite heavily built, much like Joe, and since they historically have worked in the Portuguese bull rings, they have to be fast and agile to keep out of trouble. As a result the Portuguese horse masters have developed over the centuries a system of horse training which teaches the horse to carry himself properly I.e. The Classical Way, A Lusitano’s front legs are there to stop his nose from rubbing along the ground whereas his hind legs are for prancing about.
The training lady says that it is all a bit like Pilates for humans. The important thing is to get the horse to use its stomach muscles properly so that the horse’s spine and dorsal muscles, which run down the top of its back, carry the rider’s weight effectively. The lady in my presence pressed her thumb along a very sensitive and delicate part of Joe’s anatomy and, lo and behold, he lifted his back up into the correct posture. But in truth, if she had been pressing me where she was pressing Joe, I would have got the wrong idea. However, just for an instant, he looked distinctly rounded.
If only Joe knew what is being planned.
After the lady had gone, I looked at Joe’s “relaxed” profile again. It is true - he’s got a beer belly- only his came from nets of hay and not pints of beer. I had always thought that the little dip in his back made placing the saddle easy but it seems that the little dip can be a sign of poor posture. I had thought of buying a corset for The Boy but in truth it won’t produce the desired effect. He’s got to work out.
Apparently this riding teacher is a real whiz kid. There’s just one catch in all this. Apparently it is not only Joe that is going to get nagged in the arena. The lady, no doubt dressed up in thigh high riding boots and carrying a long whip, wants me to be up in his back when Joe has his lessons.
Sounds like Pilates night at the Village hall on Thursday evenings, all over again.
We will keep you posted.
Barry G (and Joe).
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    09-05-2009, 02:49 PM
Could you post next time in a larger font, please? I stopped reading half-way through :( and it's the middle of the day too!
    09-05-2009, 09:19 PM
Thanks. It was a bit easier to read and that's quite funny. I'm glad I took the time to read it. I was trying to picture a corset on a horse. That would be a good one for the artsy people on here to do! The "saddle dip" is good too! I love it.

Good luck with him. Hope the "work outs" go well!
    09-05-2009, 10:29 PM
Let me know how it goes I have one that needs a workout as well. It also sounds like you may have been a little jealous of your horse. The thigh high riding boots would be interesting.
    09-06-2009, 07:59 AM
JOE and The Ring
It had been decided that Joe and Barry would have lessons from The Classical Riding lady. This education will involve our going round and round in the training arena up at Celia’s place. In order to get us ready for school I decided to give Joe’s schooling technique a brush up. When I collected The Boy from the field just after lunchtime, I should have known I was in for a surprise because he was laying down on the ground in the field. Joe was fast asleep and in the middle of the day. However there was no problem because I had in my pocket the obligatory carrot. So long as you can offer the orange and green succulent, then Joe will take interest. I fitted his head collar and led him into the yard. I gave him his groom and as usual for this time of the year, hair came out in handfuls. Then I dressed him up in his saddle and bridle and we were ready for the arena.
Setting the training arena up involves laying out some 9 foot long wooden poles. They are laid down in such a way as to make a horse think about where he puts his feet and remember Joe has got four to think about; two of which he can’t see. Joe is fine as long as the poles are on the ground but rest them on supports off the ground and it all gets too difficult for him, especially at the walk. Don’t ask me why. We have another little test, I lay out some milk crates and a chair for Joe to negotiate. The idea is that the tighter the turns, the more he has to flex his body to negotiate them. The more he flexes, the better the body - or so the theory goes. In horsey parlance, “we are aiming for a rounded profile.”
Anyway we did the business for 15 minutes or so and all went well until, as usual, Joe knocked the pole off the supports. So to get it up off the ground, I had to dismount, reset the pole and try again. Which I did.
The other exercise Joe was having a problem with was to go into a narrow gap created between two barriers which had been placed at right angles to a wall. Then he had to back up at least three steps to get out. He could back up but not in a straight line and that is the rub. He has to do it straight. So I decided to show him on foot by leading him in hand.
I dismounted for the second time. I led him by his lead rope around the course. In, out and round we went. I decided to relocate one of the crates and let go of the lead rope. Joe stood and waited for me to pick up the rope again but for some reason I hesitated. Instead I walked over to one of the other crates and Joe followed me at the shoulder. I turn right to go round the obstacle and he turned right with me. I walked on, The Boy followed. I walked round the arena and Joe kept up by my side. Round we went, circles and half turns, to the right and to the left. Where ever I went, Joe went too, with his head by my shoulder.
In the riding manuals, this process is called being “joined up”. It doesn’t come easily and it will only come if the horse feels very comfortable with the rider. To get Rocky my dog to follow me at heel is difficult enough but to get Joe to walk at the shoulder is indeed a real coup. Obviously, Joe feels very comfortable with me, even if I do ask him to walk around silly things poles.
Nice - isn’t it.
PS Maybe it is the side effect of all those carrots?
    09-06-2009, 08:37 AM
Sounds likes a positive day. Terrific!
    09-06-2009, 05:37 PM
You must be spending a fortune on produce between the apples for your mare and the carrots for your gelding.
    09-06-2009, 07:20 PM
Carrots, apples and horse biscuits. You raise a question of ethics.

Delta is addicted to all three - because I have deliberately given her the taste of them. They no longer represent food, they represent desire.

She can't find them by herself - she can't buy them or locate them -although she knows they lie in the food cabinet..

To get them , either I give them as a reward or she asks me for them.

Of course I do give them to her as a reward but does she understand??

Of course , I also give them to her as a treat, a token of friendship - that for sure she doesn't understand. But she still eats them.

I will always give them to her if she asks for them. She is communicating with me - she asks for a biscuit, I give her a biscuit because she asks.

Noone else gives her carrots or apples or biscuits. Only I give them to her. Without me, she gets no treats. For treats she is dependent upon me. SHe must be nice to me - but does she understand?

If she does what I ask, willingly, without argument, to the best of her ability, later on I give her a treat. I say thank you.
???Does she understand?

It is all a question of ethics.
Should I as a human take advantage of her weakness?

Others might tie a horse down with leather
or put a harsh bit
    09-06-2009, 07:50 PM
I don't use either restraints but I admit that I bribe her for compliance.

So far, I believe it works

Barry G

PS DOg handlers have been using treats to ensure compliance for years.
    09-06-2009, 08:49 PM
Yup, me too. I use treats for bribery. It mostly works too. However, once my horses get used to what's being asked of them, they tend to not bother with them. Kinda wierd. But, hey, it still works for new stuff or reinforcing stuff they don't understand or don't want to do.

My Lisa asks for her treats too. I oblige as well.

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