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Reward-based Art of Riding

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

What do I mean when I talk about Reward based Art of Riding? Simply my aim to combine the principles of positive reinforcement with the art of riding. Old ideals, new pedagogy. In this blog post I describe my philosophy and the importance of foundation behaviors.

At the core is the principles of #positivereinforcement And a horse that wants to connect with us. Our connection with our horse is always evolving. In the beginning it can be so simple as to go get your horse in the paddock. We need a horse that willingly want to work with us and is confident enough to communicate back to us..

This, and to build a strong repertoire of foundation skills for both our horses and ourselves form the basis of our work. Our foundation behaviors are our building blocks for more advanced work. Our foundation gives our horses clarity and structure as well as offers choice and control for our horses.

Our foundation leads to balance. Emotional balance as well as physical. As with most things we do this is something we're always working with on different levels.

The adaption of these elements looks different for all horses and all riders. But we all need to start at the base. A clear structure and a well thought out educational plan forms the foundation together with learning theory, biomechanics and knowledge of the horse biological needs.

For us, the riders (be we on the ground or in the saddle), we need to train ourselves to see and feel small changes and nuances. The gymnastic exercises and our foundation behaviors are important components in all work, from the beginning up to advance levels.

The picture is ment to describe the elements at the core of my work.

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: Behaviour change through the addition of something appetitive.

CONNECTION: a horse that wants to communicate with us and a human open to listen. We start with making connection with our horse and every horse we train.

FOUNDATION BEHAVIORS: Our building blocks, the foundation we rely upon. Behaviors we can use as default behaviors and for building other, more complex, behaviors.

BALANCE: Balance is a wide concept that's about both horses and riders. Emotional and physical balance. Horizontal and lateral balance. Dynamic balance where stability and mobility are aspects.

OBSERVATION SKILLS: The riders ability to see and feel small movements of the horse and to create clear goals in small enough steps as not to over face nor horse nor rider.

COLLECTION: Collection is a process and an action. Collection happens when a horse center of mass is shifted backwards, from the forehand to the hindquarters. The degree of collection is determined by how much weight the horse carries with his hindquarters. Collection is physically demanding for both horse and riders, it also has important psychological elements to it. In A search for collection. Science and art in riding (2009) Paul Belasik writes: "Collection is to mentally and physically gather yourself to your core. It is a preparation to enter `flow´.

Dressage is for the horse, not the horse for dressage
-Bent Branderup

This is a quote I love deeply. My philosophy is to help the rider help the horse. Calm and balanced. Working towards straightness and lightness.

Dressage is for all horses, no matter the breed

Every horse, no matter the breed, deserves education and to have a meaningful life. For most horses training is an important enrichment and we should all strive to be the best trainer we can be for our horses. On the pictures you see my horse Koppar illustrating well the quote above that the dressage is for the horse.

School walk with Koppar

As a warmblood of trotter breed he wasn't exactly build for dressage but with systematic education he both changed and exceeded well beyond his conformation. This horse has been my greatest teacher in both connection and collection.

The more overall goal with all training is however that the training should work as welcomed enrichment and contribute to a sustainable body. Horse training is communication, a journey with room for constant grow. To learn from and share this with our fascinating friend the horse is a worthy goal in itself.


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