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 Post subject: Power
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:50 pm 
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"All sciences and arts have principles and rules, by means of which one makes discoveries leading to their perfection. Horsemanship is the one art for which it seems one needs only practice. However, practice without true principles, is nothing other than routine, the fruit of which is a strained and unsure execution, a false diamond which dazzles semi- connoisseurs often more impressed by the accomplishments of the horse than by the merit of the horseman. From this comes the reason for the small number of well- trained horses, and the paucity of ability one sees at present in the majority of those who call themselves horsemen.
This dearth of principles renders pupils unable to distinguish shortcomings from perfection. They have no other recourse but imitation; and unfortunately it is easier by far to fall into bad practices than it is to acquire good ones."

This is how Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere starts his chapter “on the manner of training horses according to the various uses for which they are intended”.

I use it here, because I believe it gives great context to the meaning I shall try to put across in this article.


I have come to ponder upon the why of riding, lately. Why do I ride? It is obvious that I enjoy it, that it is a challenge, that I learn important stuff about myself from riding, and so on, and this could be a reason, I guess- but maybe not.... Maybe, as the saying goes, these are merely facets of enjoying it- thus these are no reasons. So I come to believe that my reason is that it feels like I contribute to something greater than myself. The equipage becomes something more than the sum of its parts; The horse and me.

And when I realized this, I had an epiphany. I will call it no less, because it so revolutionized the way I feel and think when I am riding, that it even put a smile on my face. Those who know me will understand. The change? Well, I do not limit my horse, anymore. Think it through before you jump to any conclusions; I now allow my horses to move with maximum power. Most riders have felt this power on occasion; On a wild gallop through the woods, or that time you got thrown sky- high in a gargantuan buck. But I do not know many riders who even consider riding like that all the time. (I do of course make allowance for intensity/time variables)

It is so easy to think that when one is collecting, the horse is moving with power. This is rarely true. I did a test the other day on one of my horses. He is old and strong, and I wanted to test the strength of the horse. Often, we say that the piaffe is to the horse what squats are for people; One of the very best and very hardest exercises you can do for your fitness. I coupled the piaffe, then, with “tabata intervals”. This scientist Tabata, found that when one does maximum intensity work for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest, and repeat this for a total of 8 sets, one gets power AND stamina. I did this with Hugo in the piaffe: 20 seconds of piaffe, 10 seconds rest, repeat 8 times. His breathing did not change noticeably.
I hereby challenge the reader to try the same with the squat; Maximum number of squats in 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, repeat 8 times. See if your breathing changes.

This had me befuddled. But to shorten the way for you a bit, I understood that piaffe is mostly about mobility through the hips. To make it more than a mobility- exercise, will take you on a whole new journey, and I guarantee goosebumps along the way. The mobility itself is no easy task. Can you do the splits? If not, do you think you could be threatened to? At gunpoint? I guess the answer holds only academic interest, but you get the idea...


This is a tricky word. I admit to ambiguous feelings about it. I see before my inner eye a bunch of people babbling about stuff they have no idea how to do; in the end they all hate each other and the task is accomplished in a very rudimentary way. This is not cooperation. Nobody got to use their abilities to their fullest. Everyone was limited by the others, or by their own fear for the opinion of others. This is no cooperation. This is merely co- existence, and no fun at that... The other type of feelings I get about this word, was made clear to me in the army. Cooperation meant that the heavy, strong type of guy was used to help the others clear difficult obstacles; he could lift and hoist people over where they themselves could not. On the other hand, they might have to step in when he is tired of carrying his and their bulk, and is no longer able to make good decisions. In this way the group get the job done faster than any one could do it alone.

This is my aim in riding. I want to be able to help the horse with my understanding of what long- term training will give the horse, my sense of balance, and my ability to plan ahead. I want the power of the horse carrying us both; his strength and stamina; his extraordinary sense of bodily communication. His ability to feel what I want sooner than I am able to describe for myself what I did...

As long as I hold his power back, I cannot accomplish this goal; It is no use trading away one powerful ability for another; I will not trade the power of my horse for my control of the horse. There is an expression for that; It is called learned helplessness. The horse has learned that it is not allowed to express power. So it will not. And the horse is lessened for it. This is no worthy sortie for the proud animal!


We fear what we cannot control, and we fear what we do not understand. I believe we are all guilty of both of these when it comes to our relationships with horses. Who, in their right mind, will not be afraid of 500 kilos of muscle? If you are not, I beg you to consider my words once more. Rest assured; Afraid might not be it, if you are really good, you might just have a healthy respect. What I am talking about here, are those times when you really feel that you are but a speck of sand in the storm; You are inconsequential to the horse. Say when the horse spooks, or when it just will not enter the trailer. :-)
Most people do not even have the courage to run away. We are so far removed from our natural responses, that we just freeze; Or if mounted; curl up like a fetus waiting for mom to save us.

She cannot.

To be one with the horse; To be a positive in its life, we must be BRAVE. Not fearless. We must go fight or flight. Whichever one, believe it or not. Whatever is true for you, is obvious to the horse. If you are indifferent, the horse might do anything. It will be indifferent, dangerous, or just plain bored. The next time your horse spooks, do a systems- check on yourself afterwards; Did you open your hips or close your hips? Bear in mind that if you tried to close them, bur the horse managed to wrench them open through his back, you are still guilty of fetus- behavior. :-)


Yes, yes, this is the boring part. Everything above is closely related to athleticism or the lack of it. We must be able to express power through the hips, or our bodies/brains will never allow the horse to move freely. It is that simple. And that hard. It is not really all that difficult to ride well, I believe. Nor is it difficult to clean and jerk well. But the amount of good work you need to put in is unbelievable. I challenge you all to squat more. Or at all if you do not already train hard. And it is imperative to find a good athletic coach. Unless you already can squat 1,5- 2 times your bodyweight with perfect form, that is. And if you can, I contend that you work out already ;-)


Nobody knows what the future holds, but understand this text, and do your squats, and I guarantee that you will revolutionize your riding within months.



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