If you’re not watching the way a rider’s body moves in the saddle and studying the best of the industry, you’re going to miss the fundamental problems in the way your body needs to move.
As many of you know, my training program is based on studying the best of the industry for thousands of hours, whether it’s in person in 3 dimensions at the Congress and Powers and major shows, or through videos. I think one of the biggest issues that clients face is that they become “barn blind” or simply don’t know what they’re supposed to be looking for. If more people would spend time getting educated on what their horse is supposed to do, they wouldn’t keep their horses at a lot of places where they simply aren’t getting the job done. Learning how to measure progress and determine whether your horse is getting better or not is crucial in making sure your dollars are getting spent in a wise way. I have found that a lot of people simply aren’t sure of what a horse should be able to do or move like, so they end up with a lot of horses that aren’t functionally correct, so even if the trainer was asking them to use their body or maneuver correctly, the horse and rider would just fight their way through it.
Not understanding the fundamental movement of a correct horse leads a lot of trainers and clients into weird places during the training process, in which the client is disappointed because the horse isn’t moving correctly or doing the maneuvers well and puts pressure on the trainer to do more, so the trainer panics and starts getting aggressive to make it happen, which only makes the horse confused, which makes it stop trying for both people, truly creating a negative cycle for everyone involved that is so hard to break out from.
I see that sort of thing all the time when it comes to going slow with their head down, people see that is what wins at horse shows but don’t understand that those two things are truly a symptom and not a cause. I can’t stress that point enough– if your horse is round and lifts in the middle, he has the chance of putting his head down and sitting softly in your hands, as well as going slow. Those two things are often overlooked in favor of the most obvious thing, which is the head (because you can see it when you ride) and the speed (because that’s easy to spot for everyone).
I think the best way to look at it is to relate it to your own physical fitness– if a person wants to be athletic, they’ve got to have great core strength first and then they can move out to their extremities like their biceps and forearms. If the shoulder isn’t strong though, they’ll never be able to lift enough weight to build huge biceps, not to mention they would look pretty ridiculous with huge arms and a tiny body… for some reason, we don’t objectively look at our horses the same way however; quite often I run into horses with huge muscling behind their ears and no muscle in their shoulders, or a huge shoulder and no hip. I can assure you if you go to the big shows and see the winners, they’re going to be heavily muscled and fit– you can not overlook your muscling and just ignore the fact that your horse isn’t strong in the areas he needs to be!