Foundation training is the essential fundamentals of good horsemanship that you and your horse need to master to communicate well together. It is the basis for everything you will teach to your horse. It is the simple, not-so-very exciting, methodically drip-fed things that take time to build, which lead to good horsemanship habits in yourself and your horse. Foundation training may not look exciting on a day-to-day basis, but over time when perfected and you and your horse are working as a well-connected team, it can look simply amazing.
‘A beginner rider wants to work on intermediate horsemanship. An intermediate rider wants to work on advanced horsemanship. But an advanced horseman works on the basics’ – Unknown
How true are these words? While most equestrians are really eager to work on the fancy things, the exciting and impressive things, they skip over the most fundamental areas in their training. These fundamentals may be easy to pass over initially but soon enough those gaps in yourself and your horse’s foundation begin to show. They show when simple tasks become harder to achieve, they show when heavier and more coercive aids and stronger tack is required to achieve a result.
Don’t be fooled by everything you see on social media, instead look for the many trainers who praise their horses for the boring and mundane everyday exercises done well. If you can learn to appreciate and correctly apply the basics of horsemanship, they will become exciting things.
Let’s look at an example. When you go out to bring your horse in from the field do they see you coming and eagerly come to greet you? Does that horse so eager to greet you happily stand nose to cheek to breathe you in and remain glued at your side wherever you wish to take them?
Yes? Then revel in the simplicity of the relationship you share because without it there is nothing.
No? Then this is an opportunity to ask how you can improve your partnership with your horse.
This is where it all starts because without the relationship there is nothing. If given the choice would your horse choose to come and spend time with you? Would your horse choose to engage with the conversations you want to have with them? Would they be just as eager to greet you tomorrow?
The fancy things come from simple things. Something as simple as your horse eagerly coming to greet you can change the entire outcome of a training session. Those simple things that to some really don’t look exciting or to others may not be considered a big deal but are the first step that can take you and your horse to awesome places. That simple hand target game you play with your horse could one day lead to flying changes at liberty, that small weight shift you felt when you didn’t use your reins could one day turn into jumping a course bridleless.
All these amazing things start somewhere. They could start with a partnership, two beings that enjoy their time together, who can’t wait to go out, treat pouch in hand, and see what they can do today. No pressure to perform, no ego to satisfy, just a joy to be together and an eagerness to be better than yesterday.
So, gaze in amazement at all the inspirational things you see people doing, like galloping bareback along the beach, doing flying lead changes bridleless and liberty routines that leave you catching flies, but appreciate the small things you see in others and yourself – the little things that you know are what are good for you, your horse and the partnership you share together.
Dream big but remember it’s the small, everyday steps that progress you and your horse on your journey.