Soft training, also known as gentle or natural taming, is a type of natural communication you have with the horse to tame it that relies almost exclusively on body language. In the Anglo-Saxon world, gentle training is also known as natural horsemanship. Now let’s see what soft training is all about
Preparatory work for gentle training
When you climb for the first time on the saddle of the horse it is only the last phase of the preparatory work which is done on the ground and it is also the first of that on the mounted horse. It is therefore necessary to arrive at this moment with adequate preparation which must prepare the foal to live the experience without having any particular trauma or stress. This moment conditions the future of the horse from a psychological, physical and emotional point of view it is something that will remain with the horse for the rest of its life. He must therefore experience it as a natural thing from the first approach.
The first time you get in the saddle is a short working session and you shouldn’t expect too much from the foal. You have to inscribe in the foal’s mind a few simple things to do and have low expectations and at the same time many rewards. This gives the foal the desire to collaborate and of course to learn.
It is necessary to evaluate the conditions of a taming because it can vary according to the experience of the trainer and the characteristics of the horse to be tamed. It is best to avoid being led to the rope by an assistant as this approach is more dangerous than letting the foal loose. The reaction of the foal when first put in the saddle depends on the work done previously. If it’s positive it’s that the preparation was correct, if it’s negative it’s that you were perhaps not ready.
The saddle step in gentle training
Once tamed, at the moment of the saddle, it is necessary to propose to the horse, before mounting, the movements, the noises and the smell which result from it. Indeed, the foal must be given the necessary time to become familiar with the equipment even if the foal is already used to objects placed on the ground, this does not necessarily mean that he will accept them on his person. The best way to avoid injury is through desensitization.
It is a rather effective method to be able to teach the foal not to be afraid of the saddle as regards the movements to be made with the legs during the ride, it must be desensitized to the stirrups. The important thing to do for a good desensitization of the horse is to stop the movement and only reward the horse when it relaxes.
The use of the whip in soft training
The use of a whip, as well as spurs, is a tricky thing in riding. It is not a piece of equipment to be demonized by those who want to do a smooth workout always if used correctly. It is important to ensure that the foal does not associate a certain action and a single consequent behavior with an object. Moreover, there should be no equipment that the colt dreads, only equipment that he must respect and whose meaning varies according to the intentions and energy of the rider at that precise moment.
The whip can communicate different meanings to the foal, depending on how it is used at the time. Feelings don’t have to be negative, but they can also be pleasant or relaxing. With the whip you can massage, touch, scratch, desensitize, caress, as well as stimulate, incite or encourage. The foal should not associate with the whip, only the sense of speeding up or running away.
He must not fear his noise if the whip cracks or spins around him and must learn to understand the intentions or commands the rider wants to communicate by learning to read body language whatever object he is holding.
Contact in soft formation
In gentle dressage, the horse must be taught to accept the weight of the rider by establishing contact with him. A contact that is not only physical but mental. In fact, horses love physical contact with each other for them, it’s an important form of communication. The growing foal establishes constant physical and mental contact with its mother, through which it protects her, guides her and transmits to her the knowledge necessary for her survival. In adulthood, he still uses contact to build relationships with the pack and to communicate and express feelings, as well as to establish hierarchies or alliances with like-minded people.
Taming a horse is not about putting a saddle on it and waiting for the foal to get used to it and then riding on it. Taming is first of all to make the rider accepted by the foal by establishing contact and asking him for a relationship. This way, trust is earned and the foal is shown that he deserves it.
Saddle up and everything else is a consequence of physical and mental acceptance. It is necessary to respect the sequence to achieve a gentle training that does not encounter resistance from the foal, gradually increasing the learning times. Before making the horse accept the weight of the rider, it is necessary to establish a relationship of respect and trust with him.
Getting on the horse without the saddle, touching it, making it listen to the breath and the beating of the rider’s heart is a magical thing that the colt feels and relaxes him. An engaging and unique experience that allows him to accept the weight of the rider in a completely natural way, establishing a privileged bond with him before taming him.
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