Approach to Riding Horses
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"...making the wrong thing difficult, and the right thing easy, as opposed to making the wrong thing impossible through intimidation."
"Do people expect too much too soon? Most certainly. And a lot of times the people who expect too much too soon are the ones who are afraid. They want the horse to come through, to get over all the things that he's doing that frighten them without their putting in the time to help him. They want him to become advanced as soon as possible — if not sooner."
"...the responsibility lies with us. As horsemen, we have the ability to adjust to the needs of the horse as well as to his individual personality. We have what it takes to get along with him. Some people find a very troubled horse too much to deal with; selling him might be the best thing they could do."
"Horses can be only as good as they can be. The best thing you can do is wait until you know any horse before you begin to have expectations."
"I don't believe in waiting for a horse to do the wrong thing and then punishing him after the fact. You can't just say no to a horse. You have to redirect a negative behavior with a positive one, something that works for both of you. It's as though you're saying, 'Instead of doing that, we can do this together.'"
"Horses, like people, should be treated how you want them to be, not how they are."
"The important thing is to make sure that the last word you have with the horse is good for both of you."
"We're supposed to be the smart ones, but it's amazing how people put little thought into working with their horses."
"Horses are very social animals that are meant to be in a herd, yet if you increase his sense of security with himself, your horse will be fine away from the herd as long as he has you with him."
"The rider should not regard his horse as a tool or an instrument of sport with which to satisfy his personal ambition, nor should he use him as a toy for his pastime. He should appreciate and love him as a living creature with a right to have a character of his own, with weak and strong points just like a human being. This attitude will make him understand his four-legged partner and will lay the foundation for confidence, which is the best guarantee for any success."
"There is one axiom that every prospective rider should never lose sight of: to become a rider takes patience and again endless patience."
"...choose an aim within reach of abilities."
"Having reached the first goal, we may concentrate on the next higher one..."
"I invariably begin my lesson by repeating the former exercises, but every day I require something new from the horse."
"...we must bear in mind that all work which fatigues the horse discourages him, if he is not brought up to it by degrees and prepared by successive suppling lessons."
"My method of equitation consists in distribution of weight by the height of the neck bent at the poll and not at the withers; propulsion by means of the hocks being brought under the body; and lightness by the loosening of the lower jaw. When we know this, we know everything, and we know nothing. We know everything, because these principles are of universal application; and we know nothing, because they have to be applied practically."
James Fillis said of the horses he trained: "I first of all make them into hacks."
"The first thing you need is a strong desire to learn it. Second, you need a lot of time. And third, you need to have someone to go to for supervision who's got more experience than you have working with horses through feel."
"It's the control of the feet through the mind that a person's after. If you've missed that on the ground, on the start, why you've missed the part that means the most to the horse."
"Empathy for the horse is the capacity of a person to be able to feel what the horse feels, to read a situation the same way, and to have an understanding of what the horse is going to do in response to the situation."
"All the time you'll need to be experimenting and adjusting to see what's going to work out the best. This means it should work best for the horse and fit the way that horse is operating and is feeling about things at that time."
"...until the horse is ready to look to you for the direction and support he needs so he can stay relaxed and follow your feel — you need to follow his feel."
"Before you'd act on any plans to ride a horse you'd want to work on the ground to teach the horse to move his feet in any direction you wanted — and any direction there's a need for him to move."
"Be real gentle and patient as you teach your horse to understand that he's safe when he's with you."
"Some horses are faster to catch on than others, and some people can present this in way that fits a horse better than others."
"There are so many things to consider when you want to adjust to fit a horse, and what's best in some circumstances may not be the best in others. That's why I recommend strongly to people that they try to get some real good supervision on this."
"We're always on the lookout for the little places where it's possible, and not possible, to bring out a small desirable maneuver or change in the horse, according to our plan. Even if he just shifts his weight from one foot to another -- or takes in a big breath of air and lets it all the way out -- those are the little things we look for and hope to see. We're on the right track when we begin to notice things at this level. This is how a real solid foundation gets started."
"Before a person's riding ability can advance, they'd need to learn about the timing and balance that's required to stay with the feel of that horse."
"To my way of thinking, instead of making that horse do anything, trying to help the animal is a better way."
"To practise equestrian art is to establish a conversation on a higher level with the horse; a dialogue of courtesy and finesse. The rider obtains the collaboration of the horse by the slightest hint of a demand, and the spectator can then see the sublime beauty of this communion."
"The true rider feels for, and above all loves, his horse. He has worked progressively, remembering to help the horse to have stronger muscles, and to fortify its body, while at the same time developing the horse's brain and making it more sensitive."
"The apex of perfection in equestrian art is not an exhibition of a great deal of different airs and movements by the same horse, but rather the conservation of the horse's enjoyment, suppleness and finesse during the performance, which calls for comparison with the finest ballet, or performance of an orchestra, or seeing a play by Racine, so moving is the sight of perfectly unisoned movements."
"Reward the horse each time he does what is asked of him. Never ask for more than he is capable of giving. Make him a companion, and not a slave, then you will see what a true friend he is."
"The school gaits differ from the natural ones by higher elevation in the horse's action, by their greater impulsion and by the rhythm and cadence in their strides."
"To speak clearly and simply always in the same way is one of the cornerstones of dressage."
"The constraining exercises which give momentary fatigue to the horse should be followed by easier work, in which he moves without effort in his natural gaits."
"So many times riders attribute bad character to horses having a habit of rebellion, when often it is caused by starting certain work without sufficient preparation."
"The idea of ensuring sufficient preparation before any new demand is made on the horse, can be applied to the jumper, to the dressage horse, and in fact to all horses destined to be trained for whatever purpose."
"...it is evident that having obtained the required flexibility and suppleness [in the horse], it is also necessary to ride with feeling and even with virtuosity in order to obtain from the horse all that he can possible give."
"Riders who give their horses freedom are those who will taste the delicacies of equestrian art."
"Exercises carried out by means of sharp spurs and harsh bits will not obtain beauty and grace from the horse. The more that the horse is pushed, the more his fire becomes extinguished. The hallmark of good dressage training, which is ease and dexterity, will be taken from him."
"...riding a horse isn't what it looks like: it isn't a person sitting in a saddle telling the horse what to do by yanking on the reins. Real riding is a lot like ballroom dancing or maybe figure skating in pairs. It's a relationship."
"A horse perceives a person on his back and a person on the ground as two different things."
"Remember to develop quality before you ask for quantity of strides."
"...aim for quality, not quantity."
"Give your horse as much variety as possible. Variety makes work interesting for you both."
"If you or your horse do things more easily in one direction than the other, always work the easy way first."
"If you are honest with yourself, you will find that the one–sidedness that you feel is in the horse is really more often in you."
"So the go-forward lesson of prompt obedience to the rider's leg, seat, and/or voice aid(s) becomes the first lesson we teach the horse by virtue or its importance in the overall picture of training."
"You can strengthen the muscle groups that are responsible for enabling the horse to both collect and extend his body and gaits with graduated hill work."
"As riders, our hands, legs, seat, weight, voice, and most of all our brain are used to communicate our thoughts to the horse."
"The horse must be taught all of the fundamental basics of riding before he can be asked to combine difficult maneuvers."
"A good approach is to separate the maneuvers during schooling, make sure your horse executes each one correctly, then blend them together smoothly in a finished 'pattern.'"
"Cross-training with dressage enables you to become your horse's physical therapist, so you can loosen, strengthen, unlock, unblock, supple, rebalance, and teach your friend to carry himself."
"...every second you're on your horse you're either 'training' or 'untraining' him."
"If everything always went smoothly, you'd never have a chance to refine your skills."
"No matter what style of riding you prefer, your horse needs to move in a 'forward' and 'straight' manner. These two basic rules, together with 'rhythm', are the foundation for all correct work in every riding discipline."
"The bottom line in riding is the saying 'He who controls the hind legs, controls the horse.' The hind legs are the horse's engine, and all work should be directed to them. The more the hind legs are active, engaged, and underneath your horse's body, the easier it will be for him to balance himself and do what you ask of him."
"Schedule variety into your program to refresh your horse's mind and to allow his muscles to repair and get stronger."
"Our goal for all horses is to help them become athletic enough so that they are equally strong and willing to carry weight with both hind legs."
"The path is the goal."
:...what we do is only worthwhile if it is done in a spirit of joy, and adventure, for ourselves and for our horses."
"What, though, is the 'whole', the essence of riding? Very simply, it is 'communication and balance'."
"The horse does not notice my weight because I sit in his movement, and put myself in total balance with him."
"I must respect the horse but it is essential that the horse also respects me."
"We do not break our horses, we do the opposite, we enhance, we develop, we bring out powers where, before, barely any were perceived."
"Some, who want to imitate those who seek to bring forth all the brilliance present in a horse, fall into the habit of continuously moving their hands and legs, which detracts from the rider's grace, causes the horse to assume a false posture, creates a false contact with the mouth, and makes the horse unsteady on his legs."
"...in a discipline where the body plays such an important part, practice must be inseparable from theory, because it is the practice that makes us begin to perceive the horse's temperament, natural tendencies, and strengths; and it is through this means that we discover his resources and his kindness that are buried, so to speak, in the quiescence of his limbs."
"It is only by progressing slowly be degrees that a rider can acquire the steady firmness and stability that comes from balance rather than from gripping with legs like steel clamps. This latter style of riding is best left to rough-riders and horse dealers."
"All animals as well as man are endowed with five senses. The rider must work with three of these in order to train a horse: sight, hearing, and touch."
"...it is necessary to consider the horse's temperament, because the best lessons, which are only invented in order to perfect this temperament, would produce an opposite effect if one were to be abusive by exercising them inappropriately."
"Shortcuts may bring about temporary success but generally have to be paid for by relapse and loss of direction mainly at the expense of the horse."
"The centaur, the concept of horse and rider merged together as one, should be the ideal for which we all strive if we love our horses and take our chosen equestrian sport, of whatever discipline, seriously."
"There is nothing wrong with competitive equestrian sport, but success must never be gained at the risk of dropping standards, particularly those of humanity."
"When we ride we should remember...that every component of our own bodies has a part to play."
"We must never make unnatural demands [of the horse] appreciating, therefore, that [it] is not correct to pull our horse's head behind the vertical, to restrict his neck or to allow him to work with a 'broken' crest which will occur when the poll is no longer the highest point. Worse by far is to allow the horse to work with a hollowed back."
"The whole picture is what matters, and too much preoccupation with movement by movement can be stultifying and turn something which should be joyful and liberated into something which is rigidly mechanical."
"Classical riding is about communicating through our bodies in a way which allows the horse's body to act. There must be no forcing, no abuse."
"...a correct riding formula has to work for everyone, not just the talented few."
"Most horses need to stretch regularly throughout any working session. When you give the rein, give it generously, but keep your position!"
"You can never blame the horse when you made it impossible for him to give you what you wanted in the first place."
"Young or stiff horses, like people, must be introduced to exercise thoughtfully and slowly. Thus baby horses, like young clhldren, should not be overcorrected in their fist strugglings to carry us; rather they should be encouraged in every step they take and frequently rested and rewarded."
"...sustained performance in any athletic demand requires a proper warm-up which includes stretching down, and this does not mean charging round the arena in a spanking sitting trot to 'work' the back. Muscles and joints need a softly-softly approach if they are to free up, so the work should be careful and gradual."
"...we cannot therefore afford to put our personal considerations or ambitions first; we have, first and foremost, to ride for love if we are to be creative and restore the horse to his natural potential."
"...the real challenge lies not in personal success but in mastering the techniques required to elevate and enhance the horse through empathetic and creative equitation."
"He [Clinton Anderson] delays mounting a horse for the first time until he's absolutely sure there is nothing more he can do from the ground."
"He [Ty Murray] could stay on the back of a horse better than any human alive, but he turned to [Dennis] Reis for help in developing the finesse of a real rider."
"There is no question that physical fitness, balance, and body awareness play significant roles in a rider's success."
"...there is more to horses than simply getting on and riding, a lot more."
"Riders, like leaders in any partnership, get better results when the job is rewarding for those carrying out the orders."
"...it is up to riders to understand how well each horse's current abilities and interests match the job at hand."
"Riders will get the most from their horses for the longest period if they have a clear understanding of the gymnastic demands their sport makes on their horse."
"Good riding has more to do with what we learn every time we ride than with how well we ride at the moment."
"If we aren't very clear on what we are doing as riders and therefore how the horse experiences us as riders, we can't possible figure out the most basic question of whether a horse did something because we told them to, or for some other reason."
"...we must consider how the horse experiences our riding before we can fairly judge the horse's responses."
"Practicing the same thing even more can end up confirming problems; practicing differently changes things."
"We may become very accustomed to some inefficiencies in riding, and our horses get used to them, too. This is especially true if we are generally satisfied with our riding, have lowered our goals to meet our current performance level, or decided we have reached the limit of our ability."
"Using the interplay between horse and rider as a sign of success is a very different learning experience than checking an inventory list of what hands, heels, and hips 'should' be doing. It is also different than evaluating performance according to achieving a specific task such as reaching a particular spot in the arena, regardless of how tensely or unwillingly that got done."
"Easy and smooth riding...looks good to observers and feels good to the rider and the horse, even if details of good form may vary from person to person. Easy and smooth riding will improve accuracy along the way, too."
"The general qualities that mark all masters, like effortlessness and grace and poise and accuracy in the way we go about things, will lead us to mastery. Developing...that aspect of the quality of your work combined with technical knowledge of your favorite sport is likely to make for a quantum leap forward in your and your horse's performance."
"...it can be tricky to sort out if a horse missed a jump because it screwed up on its own, or because we interfered with it or guided it poorly."
"Improving your riding starts with acknowledging that there is always some way in which your riding could be better, and that riding better is easier."
"...the least a rider can do for the horse is not to be part of the horse's problem."
"After the horse can move as well with a rider as without one, we can start thinking about refinements specific to the sport we like."
"If we focus on 'what' the horse is doing (walk, trot, canter, figure-eights, votes, sliding stops, etc.) more than how the horse is going about things (gymnastically beneficially), we can be setting ourselves and our horses up for physical and mental obstacles."
"If our priority becomes doing everything with the minimum possible effort for the maximum possible outcome, if we attend to how we are doing things (elegantly) instead of just 'what' we are doing (canter at a certain spot, for example, even if awkwardly), the sky is suddenly the limit."
"If we can determine what the hind legs are doing and we have the horse lined up so that its movement travels along the spine the way we want, we can get a horse to perform anything a horse is capable of doing."
"Making the horse's even pace and good alignment from tail to ears your top priority before you start working on the specifics of your favorite sport just ensures that your horse will be able to use its talents to the fullest."
"For a large number of riders, the desire to compete is more important than the joy of training a horse. Training is frequently designed primarily to meet test requirements with the needs of the horse relegated to second place."
"The use of the horse in competition as well as in general riding, driving and vaulting must be geared toward the horse's ability, temperament and willingness to perform."
"It is difficult to balance economic realities with accountability for a living being — in this case, the horse."
"The rider who is thinking long-term will train her horse systematically over years, increasing demands slowly, so that she can ride the horse a long time and preserve his health."
"The exercise itself isn't the important factor, but rather how it is executed."
"...everyone needs correction from someone else in order to improve."
"Whoever abuses horses for the satisfaction of his ego and ambition hurts himself."
"As rider and trainer, you must bear in mind the horse's fitness, the shape he's in that day, his ability, limitations, character, temperament, and possible health issues."
"After groundwork, the first goal of training is to restore the horse's natural balance."
"Correct forward riding is more about body posture and attitude than nonstop 'forward nitpicking!'"
"Frequently, it is self-induced pressure for success that keeps a rider from taking a clear, matter-of-fact look at correct riding."
"I found that no method can produce the best results unless the basic principles of dressage are used."
"There are three things basic to becoming a proficient rider-trainer. The rider must be relaxed, in balance with the horse, and have good feel of the horse."
"The basic principle of all riding is to ride the horse forward from the rear onto the bit."
"The horse's engine is in the rear and it must be engaged to make him maneuverable."
"The first thing you must develop in the horse is rhythm."
"As he starts to take the walk, start riding the walk yourself, maintaining contact."
"Work equally on both reins [both directions], but do it alternately rather than all on one rein followed by all on the other."
"You must work for gradual improvement."
"More advanced work will not be any good if the basics are not good."
"The horse should be under the rider's complete control no matter what the situation, not just programmed for each trail class obstacle."
"...how you ride directly affects the performance of the horse."
"What people do not appreciate is that every time a horse submits to pressure, whether subtle or overt, he is diminished."
"If [the horse] can be persuaded to give his assent freely and pleasurably rather than give into man's pressure or clever techniques, he is not diminished."
"Learning to ride should start with being taught how to treat the horse and how to read his needs before we learn how to apply the leg, hold the reins, and adopt a good seat."
"When I mount a young horse for the first few times I scratch him, usually on the withers, so that he associates my weight on his back with something pleasurable."
"Even before mounting, I explore [the horse's] body with my eyes and hands and try to eliminate the least sign of tension in a muscle."
"With patience, time, and gentleness everything can be transformed into play; from the most advanced dressage steps to the most carefree ride in the woods."
"There is always the danger that it is a game to the rider and not to the horse. Watch carefully to see that the horse is not just submitting to becoming a plaything."
"A rider must be able to adjust his instructions according to the horse's reactions."
"Without any compulsion you can achieve extraordinary things with your horse if you are prepared to be patient and take your time."