I am not writing this to point out the obvious...
When someone seeks help or advice with their horse/pony it is because they care.
With so many training methods and pieces of advice out there, how on earth do you know what to choose? Which path do you follow?
I could write a nice piece about choosing any method is a great choice - but I'm not going to! Let's get a little controversial...
So many instructors, trainers, educators do not give the horse a second thought. Not truly...not really...
How many have explained to you about the symmetry of your horse? How many have explained to you the importance of balance exercises before learning even the basics?
More often than not a horse and rider are asked to partake in lessons which aren't tailored specifically for them. Either the horse isn't strong enough or balanced enough so the tasks are simply too difficult to execute, or the rider is asked to do more than they are ready for, resulting in tension, imbalance and mixed signals to the horse.
Whichever the scenario - it always ends in frustration and lack of progress.
Why do people want an outline so badly? So their horse "works better"? So they are using the correct muscles? What is the sense in pulling your horse into an outline? What is so attractive about the swan neck? Is it because of the media and just how it has always been?
Surely we should be aiming to help our horses into self carriage? A horse can and will work in a much healthier, more comfortable manner when properly balanced. A harsher bit or different tack should not be needed. The Masters would ride with minimal contact and no stirrups - balance was important.
I sometimes feel like I am seeing something entirely different to everyone else when watching so many celebrated riders and trainers in action. We seem to have been conditioned into accepting how riding should be and how it is to be taught, no matter the discipline.
When deviating away from traditional methods - many seek out the clever marketing ploy of "natural horsemanship" or "horse whispering". There is no such thing...a horse is always a horse. Being a good horseman is simple, but being peer pressured away from easy, proven techniques is all too common when money is made in mainstream riding. Many ways of the Masters have been lost along the way.
True softness and a great bond is easily achieved with simple, easy exercises. Progression is quicker when (ironically!) you slow down to work at yours and your horse's pace. Above all else, it is important to relax and just have fun!
But can you be open minded enough to try?
A final thought...
Why is Valegro retired at 15?
Most horses at the Spanish Riding School are at the start of their careers at this age.