Connective Riding is the fourth training element in Horsefulness Training. When your horse has learned to move with suppleness, straightness and balance during work in hand and lunging, you can choose to start riding your horse.
When you do that, it's so important to continue the straightening and balancing work you've done on the ground in the saddle. Healthy and well-trained horses can perform until they are 25 and older sometimes! So with respectful and healthy training, you are giving your horse the best possible future as a riding horse.
Unfortunately a lot of horses are not so lucky... The average sport horse lives for - don’t freak out - 8 years. This is incredibly sad, especially if you know that a well-trained and healthy horse can perform for 30 years!
Look at the picture on the right. This is an example taken
from modern competition dressage. I know, it's a dramatical picture, and a lot of dressage trainers would never ever do this to their horses. But, we should not close our eyes for this, it still happens... And sadly some recreational riders follow the
example to some degree.
The red arrows and circle are the places that hurt. Rips form in the ties of the cervical vertebrae, muscular blockades in the back and bone growth on the layers in the mouth. The horse gets a headache, has trouble breathing and upsets his stomach and intestines. This is not what horses deserve…
It doesn't have to be so dramatical like in the picture above for the horse to experience discomfort and pain though. For example: from the moment the horse moves with his nose behind the vertical for only a few centimeters and for only a few seconds because you pulled him in that shape, the stretch in the neck can already cause a painful muscle tear in the neck.
So it's important to know what you're doing when it comes to biomechanics and to never use force to try and meet a particular image you have in your head about how your horse should look under saddle.
Instead it's better to do the correct preparatory work with the horse on the ground, and then continue this gymnastic work under saddle.
In Connective Riding the physical and biomechanic part is not the only thing. We also focus on
the emotional and mental well-being of the horse.
How does my horse feels?
What does he like and enjoys?
What does he dislikes?
How can I make it fun for the horse?
Connection is key, also under saddle.
You also have to know that the way a rider breathes, the way he moves in the saddle, how much body awareness he has, ... has often more influence on a horse then most people think.
That's why, also in the saddle, is starts with you! The connection with yourself.
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