23 November 2005

Book Review: Horses Are Made to Be Horses

Horses Are Made to Be Horses: A Personal Philosophy of Horsemanship
Franz Mairinger

I loved the guy's soothing simple old-fashioned almost dorky sensitive Australian boy a la Alan Marshall style.

Franz Raininger was apparantly a champion Australian horseman. He may have had something to do with Australia's first appearance at an Olympics equestrian event.

The things I learned were:

1. Balance is all important. By balance I mean not only left-right balance but position on the back of the horse and posture.

2. The aim is to become one animal, where you let the horse do the things that he already naturally knows how to do (except with a load on his back the effect of which you try to minimise by correct balance, position & posture), but he does them when you decide. You are the brain, he is the body.

3. A horse is an excellent learner but a poor unlearner, so correct and carefully-thought-out teaching is critical.

4. The horse has natural, deeply embedded instincts which are perfectly correct for it from an evolutionary point of view. Don't try to override these with your fierce strict will. Be patient and understanding. Gently and subtly surf these instincts in a judo-like way. Shape them, don't countermand them.

5. Dressage [literally "training"] is the 2500 year old art of military horsemanship.

Sounds to me very much applicable to humans...

Quote (re a dressage move called the capriole):

In the capriole horse goes piaffe, piaffe, piaffe [i.e. 3 trots on the spot], then straight up into the air, and as he reaches the apex of his jump he kicks out with both hindlegs. It was developed in the past when a knight was surrounded by foot soldiers. He made a capriole and scattered everything around him. Then he did a half-pirouette and poof he was gone. It is a natural movement. You can see horses, particularly young horses, doing it in the paddock with no artificial aids at all. But no rider with any sense will try to teach capriole to a horse that has never shown a natural desire to get off the ground.

Oh, and the fundamental rule of horsemanship is?...anybody?...

Don't fall off.


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