Understand first, act afterwards

Very often, riders tend to do too much too quickly without paying attention to the horse’s needs or not waiting for its response before repeating a request. All this leads to several badly judged and executed actions as well as unnecessary gestures or movements that only confuse the horse. What riders must do in their everyday routine is therefore learn how to control the aids they use, stepping in only when it is necessary to obtain the right response from the horse, in harmony and mutual understanding.

At home, one needs to practice over very simple exercises with gradually increasing difficulties that vary depending on the technical expertise of the horse/rider combination and even more on mutual understanding. These exercises must allow the horse to jump without worrying, keeping its natural balance and without the rider having to correct it in any way. The rider must only worry about cantering at a good even pace maintaining the horse’s natural balance and without having to make any corrections. The rider must also keep the horse straight and restrict himself to only correcting these two aspects. Riders must think of their seats so as to match the horse’s movement in finding balance. Attention must be paid to mental and physical control over action taken in responding to the horse.

In order to achieve this control, one must train consistently. Once the rider is in control of his body in the saddle and of the aids used, he/she may intervene appropriately to correct the horse when necessary, thereby improving control. After achieving this goal and therefore having obtained the horse’s reaction to correct and specific requests, one can increase the difficulty of the exercises that must always combine flatwork and jumping.

Michel Robert for Team WOW