Riding Skills: Side Reins And Longeing, Is This Abuse?

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Question Category: Riding Skills

Question: Hi Julie,

I have a question for you. I have a young horse and am working with a professional trainer who has been giving me lessons but I don’t feel they are safe. What she does is first makes me lunge him for a hour in side reins, then I ride him in side reins on the lunge line but she uses a chain though the bit and puts pole on the ground and chases my horse over the poles with the lunge whip. He has now started kicking out and he is extremely unhappy. To me this does not seem necessary but she assures me to make him a dressage horse it is. She has ridden Grand Prix I have not. Can you give me some advice on what is normal? I do not want to have my horse abused.

Thank you

Answer: Johanna,

First, you should NEVER ride in side reins; it is dangerous. Secondly, I disagree strongly with the training techniques you describe; every one of them. Listen to what your horse is saying. Horses never lie. He is frightened and confused and being forced to the point of lashing out for his own protection because he is being abused. The fact that she has ridden Grand Prix (if that is even true) means nothing about her qualifications as a trainer.

I do not longe any horses and I do not ever use side reins, although they are very accepted in the Dressage world. For very young horses that we are just starting under saddle, we work them in the round pen for about a week; after that, we just ride them and never longe first. If you have to longe a horse before you get on, you’ve done something wrong in your basic training. We thoroughly bit the horse out (teaching him how to respond to pressure on the bit) before he ever has a rider on his back using an “elbow pull” for vertical gives and teaching the horse to give laterally from the ground. There is lots of information on my website about this.

I have a firm rule that a young horse is never taught more than one new thing a day. We go back and review all previous lessons, then incorporate a new skill and then put the horse away when he is confident and feeling good about himself. If at any time during the training process the horse becomes nervous, edgy or confused, we know we have gone too fast and we back up to the point that he can regain his confidence. I want my horses to look forward to their training sessions and be happy and willing all the time.

Here is a quote from Xenophen, from 400 BC: “Anything forced and misunderstood can never be beautiful. If a dancer were forced to dance by whips and spikes, he would be no more beautiful than a horse trained under similar conditions.”

Think about what your horse is telling you and do the right thing for him, before you or your horse gets hurt. You already know what the right thing to do is; I can read it in your question. Good luck and take control of this situation before it is too late.

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

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