WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE WHEN WE GET IT RIGHT?
BY CAROLINE HEGARTY – FOUNDER OF EQUTIOPIA
At Equitopia, we work hard to share information on subjects such as bodywork, saddle fit, nutrition, lameness, hoof care etc., so the question is what does it look like when we get it right?
And, as usual, the answer is – it depends.
Our viewpoint is that getting it right really is less of a destination and more of a journey of celebrating milestones and pro-active preventative measures that help to avoid obstacles in the journey. Also, each horse is different in so many ways just as each rider is unique.
We are going to follow along with this horse and rider combination in a new Equitopia series coming soon.
The horse in the photo is Falcon, owned by one of our UK trainers Yasmin Stuart. He is a rising 12 year old, warmblood gelding that stands round the 18hh region. He originally came from Ireland, where he was hunted, and then he was bought for the riding school where Yasmin used to work. While she was working for the riding school she had the opportunity to school him and found him an absolute pleasure to work with as he was mostly very trainable although not without his behavioral quirks! Due to his issues, the riding school accepted Yasmin’s offer to buy him.
Two days before she officially owned him, she was at a clinic in the Netherlands and unfortunately had an accident where she fell off and fractured 3 vertebrae. Due to her limitations because of injury and, coupled with his size and occasionally aversive behavior she felt quite vulnerable whilst she was compromised. Yasmin decided to take the opportunity to start building his confidence by working alongside her friend, who is a trainee equine behavioral consultant She started with things like target training and starting to get him used to some novel objects and then gradually introducing rehab modalities like pole-work and lunging.
When she felt their relationship was in a good place, Yasmin worked on getting him a proper fitting saddle, getting him comfortable in it and has since put a lot of work into riding him into vertical balance to help him become more symmetrical and stronger over his back. She has chosen to ride him primarily in a forward seat to help him maintain balance and therefore optimize his strength gains. Some people might argue that he needs to learn to carry a rider that is sitting in the classic plugged-in riding seat, but for Yasmin and Falcon, that does not work at this moment in time – the goal is finding a program where the horse is comfortable and free as opposed to a horse that isn’t strong enough to perform movements being asked at that time – there is plenty of time to adapt her seat as-and-when she feels he is strong enough but forcing this will only compromise his health. She also has to be mindful that she’s not even a year past her own injury and is mindful of not wanting her weaknesses affecting him negatively (As rider posture and balance is also important, Yasmin is undertaking her own strength and mobility training also).
In order for Falcon to build confidence it’s important that he isn’t restricted and is allowed to explore postures to find what feels good to him in that moment. We have experienced that when horses are exposed to all postures, i.e. being hollow, or low, deep and round or FDO they will find that, whilst the FDO can be more challenging in the beginning, over time is the most comfortable, sustainable and we also know that it is the most functional.
Yasmin’s objective when working with Falcon (or any horse for that matter) in a training situation, is to not berate any so called ‘errors’ he makes – after all the whole point of training is to learn and develop. The goal is sustainable improvements from a horse that doesn’t seem stressed by his training session.
LIKES AND IMPROVEMENT AREAS FROM PHOTO:
Areas to work on from this photo:
– The atrophy in front of Falcon’s wither
– The muscular tension around C1/C2/C3
MILESTONES TO CELEBRATE IN THIS PHOTO:
– The lifted back
– The engaged abdominal muscles
– The horse that’s in front of the vertical
– The evident cadence in his stride
We will announce the series in the coming weeks. Stay updated through our membership program for only $4.95 per month!! https://www.equitopiacenter.com/sign-up/