Good communication between a dressage horse and rider is essential to their ultimate success. As horses and riders develop as a team and climb the Dressage Training Pyramid, the art of communication between them becomes much more subtle and nuanced. Riders often labor to clearly and effectively express themselves to their horses in ways that their mounts can both understand and appreciate.
This is particularly important when it comes to the correct application of discipline, one of my favorite words that if you fully embrace its definition simply means, “to educate”. Effectively disciplining a naughty horse in an appropriate and fair minded way is important both to his education, his future improvement and his happiness. Communicating your established boundaries, “You may choose to go forward, but you may not choose to buck,” in a calm, dispassionate manner is essential if you are to continue to develop your human-equine partnership and if you expect your horse to respect you and your boundaries. Good riderscommunicate their displeasure of naughty behavior by disciplining their horse quickly and quietly and then move on. They appreciate the importance of teaching what is acceptable and what is not – and they do it with the least amount of correction necessary to make their point. Horses that have been trained in this manner quickly understand what is expected of them. They have been given boundaries for their behavior and they relax in knowing where the lines are and
what crossing those lines will entail!
On the other hand, good riders also know that sincere praise has no limit when it comes
to building a horse’s confidence and desire to please his rider. Just as we recognize the importance of fair discipline to educate our horses, we also need to embrace the opportunity, no matter how small, to communicate our happiness when they have accurately deciphered our aids and performed correctly. Don’t be shy – if you’re pleased, let your horse know it with a “Good
boy,” a pat on the neck or a softening of your aids. Quick to praise is as important as quick to discipline and it is just plain old fashioned good communication. So here is todays rider’s challenge – pay attention to how many times you communicate effectively with your horse today through either fair minded discipline or effusive praise. Try to improve your communication
with your horse and see if he doesn’t blossom into a better partner!
Susan Moody, IEO President