Horses were not put on this planet to be ridden. However, they do perform this service for us with great willingness and excellence, well into their twenties, provided we observe certain principles. Firstly, we must ensure that the teeth are functioning correctly and that feeding, saddling, other tack, shoeing and stabling are of optimum quality. We must then look to ourselves and our riding technique, to ensure that we do not create problems for the horse.
Good manners and consideration are essential. If the horse naps or refuses, look for a good reason, rather than blame the horse. If the horse’s outline is not good, ensure that his back is in proper alignment (chiropractic may be needed), then, if there is still a problem, sort the saddle. There is usually pain or fear underlying such behaviour. We must always look to ourselves and the tack, before putting blame at the horse’s door.
Ensure the saddle is well-placed on the horse’s back, clear of the shoulder. Sit well forward. Be very gentle and consistent with legs and hands. Think clearly what you want your horse to do and he will often do it. Make it clear to the horse what you want. Build mutual trust. ‘Listen’ to your horse’s feed back.
With a young horse, bring him on gently and sympathetically and allow him time. Do not use a dilapidated, poor-quality or ill-fitting saddle (it will be the horse’s first introduction to saddling, so it should be a pleasant experience for him!).
We should be too enlightened now, to fight the horse or to beat him into submission. That course of action will only drive the problem deeper. If things aren’t going well and if you can find no obvious cause yourself, call in professional help. Many of the chronic locomotor problems, that we treat in horses, have been found with the wisdom of hindsight to have started in a small way like this. While we enjoy the challenge of serious problems, and rejoice when so many come right with a full holistic program, we are glad to be consulted at the early stages, thus being given an opportunity to prevent more serious problems from developing.