Sunday, July 19, 2009

Horse Training By Anatomy. Part 1

Understanding how to train horses starts with a simple anatomy lesson. If you understand how your horse's body works, then you can understand how to train it. Today's lesson is based on weight and the weight distribution of your horse. I have 2 photos that I modified in Paint for a visual understanding.

The first one is of a pick up truck.

We all know where the weight of a pickup is right? If you split this truck in half, as I've done, you'll see a majority of the weight resides in the FRONT half of the truck, making the truck HEAVY on the front end. For example, if you are driving along and then you come to a complete stop, the truck will dive down in the front end temporarily. Why? Because that is where the weight is carried. Now, where does the power and forward motion of the truck come from? From the rear wheels. The rear wheels engage and PUSH the truck forward when we step on the gas pedal. There are many times where we NEED to have the weight of the truck balanced out, where we attempt to get the weight closer to 50/50, by adding bricks or other material into the bed of the truck.

Your HORSE is no different.

Your horse naturally carries a heavier load on it's front end. When sliced down the middle, as shown in the photo, you're looking at about 65-70% of the weight in the front half. Why is any of this so important? Because when training, it is important for us to understand how the horse naturally carries itself.

So what does this all mean??? Well, it's the same as with the pick up truck. We desire to have our horse's weight balanced 50/50 a majority of the time, by why is it so crucial to be balanced? Carrying a majority of it's weight in the front end we can run into some major problems while training such as, a horse not picking the canter, lack of impulsion, not trotting out properly, tripping, peanut pushing, hollowed out spine, not bending into a circle properly, refusing jumps, tripping on trot poles and so much more. Really? All this is reliant on how we ask our horses to carry themselves??? YES.

Now while it is easier for a horse to carry itself on the forehand, it is counter productive to us as riders. What becomes of a horse when we have them properly carrying themselves in a balanced 50/50 manner? Engagement of the hocks and hind end, cadence, balanced transitions and gaits, proper jumping, we can ask for extension and collection properly, balanced circles, a round solid frame, advanced movements such as flying lead changes, half pass, shoulder in/out, haunches in/out, pirouettes, trail courses, dressage tests and reining patterns.

Understanding where your horses weight is, is the first step towards making progress in ANY training program or riding discipline.


Gryph said...

So by rebalancing the weight to be more 50/50, you're encouraging him to use "rear wheel drive," right?

I can see what you're saying about the jumping... reistributing the weight would push the center of gravity/mass and the horse's natural "pivot point" back, I'm assuming. The further back the fulcrum is, the less effort it would take to lever the front end upwards over a jump. Am I correct?

-Cyg, still not that knowledgeable about horses, just has taken FAR too many physics courses. >.>

GoLightly said...

Well said, Tx.

Well done, Gryph. Exactly. The big reason why horses have problems with riders who can't ride a jump, is the weight they throw onto the horses forehand, AS THEY TAKE OFF.

You might enjoy googling Dr. James Rooney's work on horse "mechanics".
Amazing stuff, horses are. Built with springs and pulleys and levers, for maximum go from minimum input.

His writings are just as relevant today.

imo, it's easier for the horse to carry us, if he can learn to shift his weight back, and "round up" by carrying his quarters further underneath him. Otherwise, we are just a sack of potatoes, weighing him down further in front.

Gryph said...

Cyg, not Gryph. He's out of town this week. :)

And yay! Glad to find out I'm actually understanding what's being said. ^^

That link looks very cool, thank you. I'm browsing through it right now. Anatomy is a special interest of mine. Comes with being a paleo major. ;)

Thanks again. :)


GoLightly said...

sorry, Cyg.
I knew there were two of you.
I did.

I forgot:(

I loved bio-physics in University.
Can't remember most of it, but I liked the prof. He was totally fascinated by horse-shoe crabs..

Gryph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gryph said...

It's fine, we're used to it. ;)

Well, they ARE fascinating. If you're interested, I can email you an article I found on how they learned to sex trilobytes by studing horseshoe crabs. :)

Speaking of which, I was thinking of writing up a post or a series of posts on the evolution of the horse, perhaps focusing on the traits that make them unique/trainable/confusing today. Think anyone would be interested? :)