Schooling that puts the horse first. By Susan McBane. Softcover, 240pp, RRP £17.99. Hale Books/JA Allen. Buy in NZ

December 30, 2009

There is an array of books available which tell you how to train your horse, what to do and what not to do to get results. This one, however, asks that above all, you put the horse first.

It starts with an outline of horse behaviour - why most of them do what they do - how they move, and their mind and capacity to learn, and their body language.

It is the author's experience that a horse can take only five minutes of intensive training at at a time, before they "switch off" and become unhappy with the process. Contrast that with recent training methods in the media.

When do you start training a horse? Ideally, handling from two days old and teaching to lead with mum is a great way to get a foal accustomed to humans. But at what age should you start riding a young horse? That of course depends on the horse's intended purpose and maturity, but McBane makes the point that many horses are "bred and fed to develop early and are often brought into significant work much too early in their lives".

The book looks at the effect of the herd on the horse, and how they interact with each other, and us, then moves on to the attitude of the rider, and the aids (and our body parts) and their correct use and purpose, and the importance of correct tack that fits well.

The final chapters include advice on groundwork; the "forward ethic" and what it means and how to instill it; riding from back to front; "calm, forward, and straight"; what to teach when, including a useful schooling sequence under saddle; and when things go wrong.

The author's final word is: "Friends should always be ready to forgive small misunderstandings, regardless of who (if anyone) is "at fault". Sometimes, we make mistakes - sometimes our horses do. Let's not sully our friendly relationship with our horses by being too eager to excuse our own failings, and too ready to react to theirs."