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Sitting on the Young Horse
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Sun Mar 15th, 2009
Posts: 67
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 Posted: Mon Jan 16th, 2017 08:14 am
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Dear Dr. Bennett, today, I was explaining to a Facebook group I manage on behalf of a horseman I respect, some of the steps this person uses to start young horses. I shared a link to your Ranger piece as is explains some of the choices this trainer makes which are in ligne with your recommendations (I think).

One reader commented that the beginning of the process is incorrect based on another one of your articles which recommends against bareback riding.

I made the point that there is a difference between riding bareback and passively sitting bareback (lightly, in balance, without tension) on a horse with a handler in charge. The reader believes there is not difference: the seat bones of the rider will hurt the back of the horse, especially a female rider.

I have followed your forum for many years and I know you have stated that "bareback riding is ok for short periods, for specific purposes". For this reason, I think you would not object to the following approach but wanted to ask you rather than assume.

After the horse has spent a year doing groundwork, in-hand work and lunging and when the handler feels the horse is mentally and physically ready, a rider/passenger sits bareback on the horse for a minute or so and then a couple of minutes.

In another lesson(s), the handler and the horse with passenger/rider onboard repeat this exercise and then take a few steps in one or both directions at walk.

This is done a few times and when the handler determines the horse is carrying the weight comfortably, the steps are clear, the horse is balanced, the horse is present and unconcerned then the saddled work is introduced.

This is done in walk only, calmly, and for a very short period of time.

The rider/passenger is chosen for its small size, light weight, lack of fear and balance. The rider leans to pet the horse's neck, turns to pet its croup, and introduces the notion of movement on the horse's back and passive but in balance, self carrying weight. No slouching or sack of potato-ness.

The goal is to make the first experience of carrying a rider pleasant so that there is no introduction of mental or physical tension and the horse's goodwill is cultivated.

Based on his experience, this trainer believes experiencing the rider's body, seat and legs in direct contact before experiencing it in the saddle is more pleasant for the horse. The saddle is introduced in steps and everything is done progressively.

Does this quality as one of the specific situations you have mentioned in past or do you think this small step is detrimental? As I respect your opinion greatly I am very much interested in your feedback.

Thank you.

Caroline (One Pony Now)

Last edited on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 08:27 am by CarolineTwoPonies

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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3232
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 Posted: Mon Jan 16th, 2017 12:11 pm
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Caroline, the idea is to prevent or at least minimize the chances of the rider's seatbones banging upon the tops of the dorsal processes of the horse's back vertebrae. The big negative would be to provoke the development of a hydrocoele, which is an irritation or bruise to the bursa which sits atop each dorsal process in the horse. Irritation or bruising tends to provoke fluid accumulation, hence, hydrocoele. Hydrocoeles are hard to reduce, tend to get bigger over time, and can be painful enough to interfere with the horse's willigness to carry either a rider, saddle pad, or saddle.

The chances of having this happen are totally minimal in the system you describe, and your reader who objects is doing so "mechanically" or "on theoretical grounds", or "upon the basis of authority," i.e., it is the voice of inexperience which indeed, nobody needs to pay the slightest attention to. So what they object? It isn't going to change what you admire or the nature or specifics of your practice. If they don't want to ride their horse bareback "ever", then let them not ride their horse bareback "ever". Your job is not to convert them to your way of doing things, either.

Where we get the horse into trouble is, as you have noted from reading my previous posts, when the bareback ride goes on for longer periods of time and/or at faster gaits. This greatly increases the chance of our butt-bones clocking into their back-bones, and the undesirable sequelae above described.

Your method seems very cautious to me, even excessively; one should ride the horse just as soon as the horse tells us that it's OK with him if we'd like to ride him, not after any set period of time. As Ray Hunt used to say -- smile, and go at it. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


Joined: Sun Mar 15th, 2009
Posts: 67
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 Posted: Mon Jan 16th, 2017 01:16 pm
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Thank you for your very informative explanation which I will link to.
I agree with you about not proselytizing. while I am enthusiastic, my hope is that by presenting one trainer's approach we get people reading articles, papers and posts liike those found here and trigger their curiosity about training. I share a lot of information from people I respect like Pauline Moore.

I have not thought of this starting process as too cautious because it is not tedious or sluggish so I may be explaining it poorly. I will think about it.

Again, thank you.

Last edited on Mon Jan 16th, 2017 01:21 pm by CarolineTwoPonies

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