Why a Different Way

 A horse that is sore, no matter how much he tries to please, will not be able to work effectively and willingly with the rider to produce a relaxed and fulfilling relationship.

 We Choose Trust-Based Training

As a rider, I am always eager to find non-aggressive – resistance-free – ways to improve a horse’s on-ground and under-saddle manners. Using resistance-free means working with horses to increase the safety of the handlers and result in a more ride-able, responsive, relaxed horse.

My search for horse-friendly techniques started many years ago when I read Tom Roberts’ books on Horse Control, especially his book Horse Control and the Bit. This book sent me on a journey to try to understand why so many people consider the simple snaffle bit the best bit to use, especially for younger horses.

To understand the pain inflicted on a horse, try this experiment. Place a snaffle bit on the bridge of your nose and have someone pull on it, pulling it back and forth from side to side. The result — pain. Additionally, when the horse is “on the bit”, when someone pulls on the snaffle bit, the horse is poked in the soft palate. To avoid the pain of the bit, a horse will open its mouth. No wonder so many riders using a supposedly harmless snaffle bit also need drop, flash or crank nosebands to keep their horse’s mouth closed. Knowing the pain a snaffle bit inflicts on your horse, will you ever use one again?

This is much the same as using fat bits. There is a great misconception that there is a lot of room in a horse’s mouth between the tongue and the soft palate. The easiest way to dispel this myth is to put your finger in the horse’s mouth where the bit fits – there are not teeth there, so you won’t get bitten – and you will find that your finger touches both tongue and the soft palate. A thick bit just puts more pressure on the tongue and bars, even at rest!

Much has been said about bits being as harsh as the rider’s hands. This is only partially true; some bits are harsh by design: no matter how soft the hands, the harshness of the bit is not reduced. If we want our horse to respond with lightness, then we have to train ourselves to be light, and the horse will learn the difference quickly and easily!

I have also studied the methods of some great horsemen, Hans Hollenbach (School of Lightness) Tom Dorrance, Leslie Desmond, John Lyons, Monty Roberts, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, and Richard Lledo. Each one of these leading horsemen has advanced the cause of the horse against the thousands of years of accepted abuse of the horse in the name of expediency and forced control.

Success mounted on the horse stems directly from success teaching the horse ground manners. Better understanding of the requests of its rider allows the horse to willingly give the rider what he wants.

Understanding and compassion for the horse – and a consistent and unhurried approach – are essential when applying the techniques that produce lightness. The benefits for horse and rider are many:

What else does a horse require to make him a willing, trusting companion?

To have a healthy, happy, trust-based relationship and companionship with your horse, you need to ensure that your horse is physically well looked after.

Knowing what’s best for your horse is the first step.

The second step? Doing it.