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Australian Brumby Challenge ©

Steve and Fergus - Week 15

Recently I was asked if I could do a video of teaching Fergus to “lie down”. My answer was no. I won’t be teaching Fergus to lay down, so there won’t be a video. There are a few reasons for this.

1. My main priority is to teach Fergus how to use his body to carry the burden of the rider, in a way that keeps him free from injury, enhances his physical wellbeing, creates a calm and responsive horse and builds a foundation that will maximize Fergus’s potential. Fergus laying down is not required to achieve these goals.

2. At my ‘Horse Starting Courses’ I always say “never teach a horse something you don’t want it to know”. Horses are programmed by nature to do the opposite of what a predator wants. Teaching a horse at an early stage a new skill that could be used as an evasion, especially when it’s not required to advance the ridden horse, is unnecessary and even asking for trouble, especially if the horse were to go to someone who didn’t understand the training and cues that the horse knows.

In the book, “The complete training of horse and rider in the principles of classical horsemanship”, by AloisPodhajsky (Former director of the Spanish riding school in Vienna) in reference to teaching exercises above the ground, Mr. Podhajsky states:

“Only after completing all stages of training, including that of High School, (this means they are proficient in advanced dressage moves such as passage), will the stallions be ready for these exercises. If taught too soon, they would make use of them as evasions to defeat the rider.”

Anything that is not needed to maximize a horses ridden potential is best avoided until the ridden training is thoroughly established.

3. As trainers for this challenge, were specifically asked to train our Brumby’s with potential future owners (i.e. other people) in mind. So no tricks.

Alois also wrote:

“The rider must have an exact knowledge of his aim and the ways and means to obtain it. The object of the art of riding is to train a horse not only to be brilliant in his movements and exercises, but also to be quiet, supple, obedient, and by his smooth movements, to make riding a true pleasure.

This clearly shows that in every kind of riding, we strive for the same objective. Whether it is a dressage horse, a jumper, a hunter… he should always be quiet, supple and obedient. These qualities are the basis for every kind of riding.”

I believe that the physical structure and the way the horse moves, are the absolute priority in the first few years of any horse’s training. Once this foundation is established correctly, the horse’s long term future is virtually guaranteed. Only then should other training or pursuits be introduced.

Fergus continued with canter transitions online this week. He is now able to do both leads correctly. He went well but I need to be careful that he doesn’t develop any negative behaviors, such as running off, when presented with space and choice. (See video below)

Next week I'll be concentrating on walk and trot and we'll go back to canter the week after that. As the training progresses into faster gaits it's possible to cause the horse to get excited and start to pre-empt his transitions. I find it's best to go back down the 'Training Ladder' and solidify the earlier training. In other words, I need to make sure his walk and trot are stable and balanced, before doing more canter.

Fergus had his first ridden walk to trot transitions this week. Before I did that I wanted him to be able to spiral with the rider on both reins. This means while riding him, I can increase the bend through his body, while maintaining his hind engagement and get his inside hind foot to step across the centreline.

This is the skill that will keep both horse and rider safe. I never bend and disengage a horse (they have enough trouble engaging their hind without us disengaging it more).

Horses get nervous and stressed when their hind is not engaged and their balance is on the fore. To keep it calm and relaxed, the rider must be able to get the horses hind feet to engage. This creates physical balance, which in turn creates mental balance.

This week we also revisited float loading and Fergus chose to be in the float for the first time, rather than being directed in by me. He's still not happy in such a confined space, but by getting him to 'choose' to be in there, it changes his perception of the float to no longer feeling fearful of it. Another 1 or 2 sessions and he'll be ready for the tail gate to go up.

Here's the video to the online canter transitions in the large arena:



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