Take a holistic approach to your training

Take a holistic approach to your training

Training a horse is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes a problem is not a training issue but the problem lies with the human or its a physical, or even an emotional, problem in the horse. 

By Amanda Barton


Some things to consider before you even get on the horse…
Many training problems are caused by a physical or emotional problem that the horse is having, fixing that problem could well save much unnecessary heartache or danger when it comes to riding. So often the horse is not moving forward as you’d like because his back is hurting or his saddle does not fit, he’s over excited because the nutrition is not right or the uneven muscle development that your equine body worker has commented on strangely matches your own physical discomfort.

Getting these things right is equally as important as good training techniques. Getting a good team of specialists to help you is no mean feat, for example you may need to experiment with a variety of different methods of physical treatment until you find one that suits your horse.


This isn’t just about the horse either. We need to take responsibility for our own bodies as well. Learning about body awareness such as by practicing a technique like Pilates,Yoga, Alexander Technique or a martial art. The benefit of this kind of commitment can be enormous. As riders we need to learn to identify areas in our own body that we often brace or tighten. Learning to release these areas is difficult as often our habits stem from childhood and we don’t even know that we have one side stronger than the other or that we brace our lower back or shoulders for example. However, if softness is the goal for your horsemanship it has to start with yourself. Unless we are soft in our mind and body we cannot expect the same from our horses.

The diagram shows a check list of some possible things to think about whether you are having a problem with a horse or not. Any one of these issues could be causing an apparent “training” or “behaviour” problem in your horse. Quite often its like a jigsaw puzzle and a number of issues are arising all at the same time. Get these resolved and the problem could vanish of its own accord. Many horses are so stoic that they may be in considerable discomfort but just not let you know about it and heroically get on with their work.

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