The horse I bought six months ago has challenged me more that any of the horses I have had in the last ten years. I have never competed at high levels and am firmly in the amateur rider category. However, I push myself to be able to do the best with my horse. I also, because of my role with my clients, am asked questions on training. I feel I have a responsibility to be able to provide answers to their questions but within my scope of evidence-based practice.
Equitation Science (ES) is the name given for an approach to horse training and management that uses information gained from research into how horses learn and how their behaviour impacts the horse/human relationship to inform. It is not linked to any ‘brand’ of training but is part of all ‘brands’ training.
ES suits my bias as it is logical, there is clarity, it prioritises horses’ welfare and is evidence based.
To read more about the principles of learning theory in equitation, go to https://equitationscience.com/about/ises-training-principles
And a video here: https://youtu.be/yaiWX47FMKs
I first came across ES seven years ago and although it made sense to me I wasn’t on the lookout for any help a that time, in my mind I had it all sorted and was progressing well with the horse I had. He was obedient, he didn’t present me with any training challenges and all was going well. However, I was interested to learn about how horse’s learn, how their internal instruction manual influences them and also how the main famous handling approaches work. I learnt to evaluate these methods and I used a fusion of the best bits without any issues.
Then along came a Lusitano who is quick, prone to tension and reactions based on fear and very, very clever!
I needed to up my game to match his training needs. And so far so good! We are following a training plan, starting with re-education of simple but essential responses to my cues (aids) such as his stop and go response. I started training these inhand and then under saddle. This has progressed to being able to change tempo and stride length whilst staying relaxed and it is very easy to tell when we are not relaxed! We have proved our training at a few low-key events, to start with from the ground (I was not about to get on a stressed and horse influenced by fear) and at the last dressage, I let my 8 year old girl hack him back to the horsebox – how about that for confidence in his learning!
We use training of direct and in-direct turns as well as yields to progress his training and strength. The goal I’m working towards at the moment is the Royal Cornwall Show. Six months ago I could never have conceived that my young, green, stressy horse would be able to cope in such an environment. Thanks to an ES approach, we are shaping his training to get to that point and for us both to be happy.
I believe a horse trained with consideration of his mental wellbeing as well as his physical wellbeing will be a healthier horse. Suits me – I would rather be involved in routine care of happy comfortable horses then horses struggling with their musculoskeletal system due to their training approach.