An informative conference was hosted by the Association of Horse Trainers (FT) and was held last week.....
According to Sigrún Ólafsdóttir chairman of the association the meeting was extremely successful. „In the past, the association has hosted informative events and instructive demonstrations that have been very popular. The association considers it to be its obligation i.e. to introduce and spread out information on good horse training and training methods, and this is one way to do it.“
The lectures were Rúna Einarsdóttur-Zingsheim and Jóhann Skúlason and were basically quite different and showed that horse training can be approached in many different ways although the objective is the same.
The methods of these masters were based on the following common main points:
• Lightness, sensitivity and softness are number one, so that the horse is content with his bridle.
• That the horse is at ease and knows what to expect. Both of them said that they do much of their training with ease and slow pace.
• They take a lot of time for each and every horse and never go ahead of themselves in their training work. If something goes wrong, then they turn back and take even more time in the groundwork.
„Rúna gave us a very entertaining account of the team work between her and her gæðingur Freyr vom Nordsternhof. Clearly, their team work has not always been bliss and it is quite evident that Freyr would not have reached this success without having such a patient professional in charge. Their relationship seems to be special and their success confirms that. It was fun to hear how fearlessly Rúna spoke about the „old guys“ as she put it, and this was especially when it comes to lightless of the reins. Concerning this, she quoted among others, her fathers’ words on how often he spoke of the importance being light on the reins. In an entertaining tone she said that she had been tired of his endless advice about how important good groundwork in the reins is, but today she is the one who can never praise enough the importance of it. Rúna put great emphases on work on the lunge and how difficult it can be, and it would not be successful unless one does that work with great care“ Sigrún said.
Good preparation work is the key to success
„Generally speaking, in his lecture, Jóhann put more emphases on the overall training methods and did not limit himself to one horse, like Rúna did. He also put emphases on giving the horse enough time and having the training methods versatile. He also said it was important that the rider is the leader, but not tyrant. The horse should at all times look at the rider as his friend and leader. The first step is to be able to take off on a slow walk with a long loose rein in order to make sure that the horse is quite calm and unafraid. One important point which he mentioned was that he always starts by checking out the horses´ mouth before he shoes the horse to ensue that the horse does get injured. Also, he frequently mentioned that horses remember pain and always remembers if he has suffered a lot of pain and therefore he is afraid of the circumstances which he connects with pain. Jóhann put great emphasis on the fact that tölt competitions should not be speed competition but rather it should be the quality of the gait and its softness which should give points. It is never possible for the horse to have the endurance necessary in order to ride through difficult finals in a hard competition. Other methods of training should be used, such as leading the horse riding, herding, swimming and work on the lunge.“
She says that what can be learnt in both Rúna and Jóhann’s speech was that patience is a virtue, conquering all obstacles - because it can even result in a world championship title.
„Both of them totally agreed that underlay in most riding halls in Iceland was too hard and they stressed that point many times in their lectures, how bad it is for the horse. Concerning solutions on that problem and how to minimize possible injuries such as soreness in their mouths or feet, they agreed that the best method was to prepare better for the challenge ahead. Preparation and daily supervision is the key to success“ says Sigrún and consequently the guests at the conference were wondering whether it was the Icelandic riders and trainers which were handling just too many horses at a time and whether and how this could be changed.
The Association of Horse Trainers (FT) will in the New Year host more events such as this and hopefully in more places around the country. On the agenda there are, among other things a demonstration show hosted by Olil Amble and more good guests will hopefully be coming from abroad, and will explain their own work methods which have been successful for them on the competition tracks.
Work on the lunge is a good addition to overall customary training
Eiðfaxi aksed three horse trainers at the educational evening about their opinion:
It is a great enterprise on behalf of FT to have had these champions to explain these things, as we have so often been proud of them and their achievements on behalf of Iceland, but not many know them personally. What I enjoyed most was how honest and modest they were. They both talked about their strong points as well as their weaknesses, methods they just recently had learnt and adopted and others that they wanted to make improvements on.
Regarding training methods, I liked how much emphasis they put on basic work, reward and relaxation, simple exercises like kissing the stirrups. I thought it was a timely reminder when Rúna pointed out that it was good to loosen up the horse a little just by leading him by the rein right after he has been led out of the horse trailer, and not put him directly into the stable. What was the biggest surprise to me is when Rúna said that she put great emphasis on working by the same routine. Even gait transitions and types of gaits, which she had decided beforehand and always at the same exact spot during the riding tour she takes. What surprised me the most of all was what Jói said about trying to get the horse behind the vertical line during training. He says that it helps project this fantastic head carriage and suppleness that he is known for in competition.
Guðmar Þór Pétursson:
I enjoyed listening to them; they are great professionals and have, in a very excellent way worked out for themselves the advantages of classical equitation in order to improve themselves and their horses. Clearly, they have a deep understanding of the horses’ conduct and behavior and wellbeing of the horse is their objective. It is not a coincidence that they have reached this far with these kinds of results. It was enjoyable for me, coming from a slightly different environment, as I have lived in the USA for many years, that all of this is to a great extent all built on the same ideology – no matter what the specialty or which horse breed we are talking about. Good equitation is good equitation and I think that a good horseman, no matter what event we are talking about, can ride almost any horse.
It is quite clear that both of them are really clever in „natural horsemanship“ which of course is nothing other than contact with the horse on his terms and understand how he learns in order to get him to perform well but not to just do as little as possible, like some people seem to think. It is also enjoyable to see that they stick to their Icelandic roots, which is something we should not forget, without locking out possibilities for improvements and changes. But this can at times be a hard golden mean.
Karen Líndal Marteinsdóttir:
What I felt was the most important issue here and agree on totally is that the horses should be supple, perceptive and relaxed when being trained. This should be the basis for us to work on and build the horse up in a correct manner, and so that we can show good performance without complications. If the horse is supple, and not tense but well balanced, then there is much less possibility of injuries.
I think it is very interesting how much Rúna uses the work on the lunge. It is quite clear that this is something one should put more emphasis on and this surely is a very good addition to the common horse training. It is good for the horse not to have to carry the rider on his back all the time and it is also enjoyable to be able to look at the horse and how he is performing.