Basics, basics, basics…
Unfortunately often rushed, neglected, and skipped, basics carry immense value in the training of horses. They are the foundation of everything that follows. Done and trained the right way, they make life much easier. They can be lots of fun too as a lot of variety can be added to keep things interesting. And in my opinion they are applied equine welfare. So we better make friends with them.
Basics start with everything on the ground such as leading, grooming and handling in general and in specific situations such as for the farrier or vet, loading for transport and catching horses in the field etc.
They have equal importance for the work under saddle. I still remember the days of my early training and riding where huge value was put on the basic schooling of the horse – and rider. No matter the intended discipline of a horse, being it dressage, jumping, eventing, western or simple trail riding and hacking etc., the training of the horse started with groundwork followed by basic dressage training in line with the training scale with the aim to build up the horse gradually, develop his muscles and self-carriage to maintain soundness as a ridden horse as well as rideability and to teach him the understanding of cues and aids given by the rider. The time given to each horse depended on the horse, his personality, capability and progress and not on our own agenda.
If problems arose and somebody was looking for a quick solution to fix them, for example the use of a stronger bit, they were reminded to go back to basic schooling instead and to fix the foundation first.
A few of my own horses have been “projects” where things with the basics had gone pretty wrong. And while I personally enjoy reschooling and love basic work on the ground, in hand and under saddle, it can also be frustrating at times to imagine where you could be if others had done their job right.
If we take the time and put in the effort to get things right from the start and build a strong foundation and resist the temptation to take shortcuts, it will pay off mid to long term. And it will be far easier to progress and advance and to avoid problems down the line.
Considering and adding the natural and learning behaviour of horses into the mix and focusing on having a dialogue and building a relationships with them, we are on the right track.
Picture: (c) Fotolia – DoraZett