A Tell(tale)

(“We went back to Square One.”) 

Eric Herbermann once wrote “All faults in your horse are fundamental faults.” By that, he was reminding us that their solution is at the source. A superficial, Band-Aid solution that only addresses a symptom will not fix things.

What do you have to do is dissect the problem and figure out what basic things weren’t learned sufficiently leaving part of the horse’s foundation missing. Being able to recognize what’s wrong is part of the task. Submerging your ego and not getting discouraged when you have to admit you’ve made a mistake along the way can be tough also.

Case in point: A rider who had been working on her own brought a horse to me for feedback on a third level test she wanted to ride. Even before she began, I knew she was in trouble just from watching her warm up. The horse’s outline was much too long and flat — more appropriate for a training or first level ride, and even then the degree of acceptance was clearly incomplete.

Most often we tackle this sort of problem with work in the trot, but this horse had had lots of practice cruising around against the hand. As Kyra Kyrklund has said, “If you can’t solve it in the walk, it’s often just harder the faster you go.”

We went back to square one. I asked the rider to make a halt in front of me. The horse’s first inclination was to stroll into it and brace against the bit. To make the transition more prompt or to ask him to be shorter, softer, and rounder caused him to back up. Simply by demonstrating that he could not stand immobile surrounded by the aids and move off when she asked revealed exactly why the balance and collection she needed was for the moment unattainable.

Way back here was where she needed to begin. By readdressing the fundamentals and building up his understanding and respect for all the basic aids, the pathway opens towards the frame and balance needed to move up.