Foundation Training - the importance of.....
I have been thinking a lot about our Essentials groundwork class and our Primary ridden classes, and the importance of what we are teaching – a good Foundation - !!
There are many lovely caring dedicated horse owners out there, wanting to progress with their horses and compete in events, or just be safe. But the crucial thing they continue to miss or lack is a basic and “solid” foundation on which to build their specific training on.
They attend many training clinics with various trainers and there is nothing wrong with gathering knowledge, but there needs to be consistency. Basically all trainers are heading in a similar direction, but may take slightly different paths to get there, again, nothing wrong with that.
The thing we are trying to do at Drifting Sands is to progress people. But to do this people need to practice their foundation training and get this really good. We have seen some fantastic progress with people who have committed themselves to us, and we thank them for that – it is so rewarding and encouraging.
My two main observations have been:
People don’t release! They often think they have released, but they either have not released entirely or they have not offered the horse some “soaking” time. They rush on to repeat the exercise, in which can cause the horse to give up or they rush on to the next exercise and the horse has not had time to process and learn. Or they release entirely at the wrong moment because they give up, and succeed in teaching the wrong thing.
The misconception of the term a ‘Soft feel’
Many clinics touch on quite a few concepts and exercises in a day (too many mostly) – You could and we nearly did spend the afternoon session on this one concept. It is one of the critical elements of good horsemanship and the foundation to all ridden events no matter what clothes you choose to wear.
Many people think a soft feel is having the horse break at the poll – then once they get it, they hold it there (forced collection). The horse learns nothing (except getting heavy and leaning on the bit).
So what does ‘Soft Feel’ really mean and what does it feel like.
Soft – yielding readily to touch or pressure
Feel – to perceive or examine by touch
Lets talk about “feel” first. I encourage people not to look at the horse. It is called “FEEL” you will feel it when your hose gives, in the beginning you will feel a moment of lightness. When you feel this RELEASE RELEASE RELEASE! If you wait for your eyes to see it, you will be too late and miss it every time.
Softness – I think the dictionary explains what we are looking for perfectly. Yielding readily to touch or pressure. Your horse should meet you half way and feel soft and light in your hands.
Maybe we should call it “FEEL SOFT” instead, as you need to concentrate on the feel – if you do this lightness will come, and it is a beautiful feeling. Its an understanding and trust between you and your horse.
I keep coming back to RELEASE. We see people where their horse breaks at the pole, but the release is no where near sufficient or they hold it to long (or constantly). We mostly see people just loosen their grip a little on the reins and they think this is the release. Throw those reins away people!
Coming back to FOUNDATION training. You need to spend time here (a lot of time), get it right, get it perfect and the rest will come.
In coming to our Essentials ground work classes and Primary ridden classes – we will help you get your foundation solid through consistent training, guidance and practice.
Thanks for reading