Thursday, May 5, 2022

Giving the Horse a Pathway to Solve Problems, From the Ground

By Mary Gallagher 

Very often, the mistakes the horse makes under saddle are mistakes by the rider in terms of balance, connection and lack of lightness in communication. Horses want to move rhythmically and efficiently, and too often it’s we that get in the way. Like other trainers, I am good at working through issues from the saddle, but I’ve been practicing new ways to reduce training time and get even better results from the ground. 

It’s a matter of allowing the horse to teach itself by setting up a situation where we can get out of the way and let the horse think through the problem. To use a computer analogy, I am either teaching a new program, or rewriting an old program that is not working. 

In this video, I help a mare improve her canter by setting up a situation for downward transition to the trot. She got the idea quickly, and sorted out her leads nicely. We moved on quickly to other things. This is one example of a simple liberty exercise to solve a problem. The possibilities are endless, as long as your goal is to allow the horse more freedom to think through and solve puzzles or problems. 

Once that happens—the horse has found the solution to the problem through moving their feet— it’s much easier for the rider to access that solution without frustrating the horse and triggering resistance. 

This is just one example of a major step I’ve taken in reducing training time and helping my horses move forward towards purpose, which is way more enjoyable for the horse—and me!

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