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."
About the author:
Susan McBane began riding before she started school and has long experience of riding and caring for her own and other people's horses and ponies, ranging from children's ponies to racehorses. She has an HNC in Equine Science and Management, is an equine shiatsu therapist and a Classical Riding Club member and Gold Award holder. In 1978, she co-founded the Equine Behaviour Study Circle (now the Equine Behaviour Forum) with the late Dr Moyra Williams and still edits its members' journal, Equine Behaviour. She is the author of over forty equestrian books and countless magazine articles. Many of her books are on college reading lists and are in demand around the world.