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12Jun 14

Nursing the soul of your friend: the horse , part 2

Horse and bicycle

Remember your first experience on your little bike? It seemed impossible to keep it upright. Because the instinct of our horse tells him to not fall over, it can give us a false sense of balance, something a bike can not do for us. A wrong balance is also a balance. Often riders want to girth up very tight so the saddle stays in the middle. It is probably already an indication that the rider is not `in the middle’. This is very uncomfortable for the horse, and makes it impossible to be balanced and therefore go on the bit correctly. First things first. During his clinics top trainer Conrad Schumacher, from Germany, kept emphasizing the importance of lunging lessons for riders. It should not be considered boring or a waste of money to have lessons `just’ to improve your seat and balance. It is the foundation of the physical relationship between you and your horse, which gives you both a chance to enjoy the process of improvement.

The comparison of horse and bike has another side to it which is at least as important. Our horse feels; our horse feels loved or appreciated or our horse feels rejected or misunderstood. This can make him very insecure. Just like a child he will react by rebelling, or worse, become depressed. It is your responsibility to not let this happen. You want a partnership, not a tortured slave.

Draw-reins and lunging whip

It is not easy to find a trainer who is not only capable but also suits your personality. There are many competent and knowledgeable trainers but some are very business like, some are very patient, others have a sense of humour that is not yours. It is your money and your choice. Once you have found someone that you and your horse are happy with and trust, show some commitment, and do not change too often. You and your horse will benefit from a more long term relationship with your trainer, working through the dips together and enjoying the highs. At the end of the day it is your choice, though, and if your gut feeling tells you it is not working, be brave and discuss it.

There is always the odd witch-doctor about. Worse, a qualified trainer who still believes in draw reins in a pair of unpractised hands and a lunging whip under the tail. Be aware and dare to say: no, I am not willing to do this to my horse. And always keep on nursing the soul of your friend, the horse. He will pay you back, big time.


Next week: problems during dressage tests



Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.