My approach to training both horses and riders is focused on two primary principles: The Natural Equitation System and Lightness
The Natural Equitation System
In the Natural Equitation System, the aim is to create a harmonious balance between the body and mind, not only of the horse but of the rider as well.
As the rider adapts to the natural biomechanics of the horse, so the horse can move more freely and comfortably. My approach to training focuses on helping the horse learn how to carry the added weight of the rider, while keeping his balance and natural gait.
Horses are economical animals for whom conversing energy is a survival mechanism. As they are primarily flight animals, horses manage their energy to ensure there is always enough in reserve to flee should danger arise.
They are similarly conservative with their mental energy, and over-demanding training techniques can easily deplete that. Riders can help their horses achieve natural equitation by perfecting the correct posture while riding and adapting to the horse's natural movement to maximise both his freedom of movement and his balance.
As a trainer, my role is to observe the behaviour of both horse and rider, and advise on the level of intensity required to achieve your riding goals, while maintaining a horse's optimal energy and natural freedom of movement. The result? A natural synergy between horse and rider.
Not only does the Natural Equitation System optimise your horse's performance, but it also reduces the risk of injury by encouraging a relaxed, natural action that minimises both tension and impact. I aim to teach the horse how to be both responsive and obedient to the rider, while being accountable for its own movement.
In training, I focus on areas where the horse braces against the rider's instruction, encouraging a shift that allows for more openness. This requires a combination of experience, observation, and awareness, and the result will be a horse that trusts in its rider and has confidence in them but is equally calm and responsible.
Riding with Lightness
Lightness focuses on how we, as riders and trainers, communicate with our horses.
We are often tempted to exaggerate our commands but, as large as it is, the horse is a sensitive animal that responds more willingly to a whisper than it does to a scream.
Many first-time riders are taught to kick to move a horse forward and to pull on the reins to stop. What I aim for is a lightness of touch that means the rider need only nudge with the legs to move on and can halt a horse with a slight tensing of the fingers.
In riding, we are often tempted to kick, pull and push with more force than necessary, and in doing so, we end up disrupting the horse's balance, and the balance between body and mind. When training riders, I focus on softening the commands, asking for a faster gait with a caress of the legs rather than a kick. By learning lightness, and training a horse according to its unique personality, we build a sustainable connection which, in time, may evolve into a partnership.
Whether you want to compete at a higher level, or simply enjoy a morning hack at the weekends, the combined approach of natural equitation and lightness will help you achieve your goals.