I am over half way through the book, and want to read straight through to the end, but I keep making myself stop to think about what I've read, and more importantly, go ride and practice what I've read. Chapter one focused on the rider's mental attitude: having respect for the horse and not anthropomorphizing him. Chapter two was all about seat and position. This was good to read, but nothing new jumped out at me.
Chapter three dealt with the aids. The biggest thing I got out of that chapter was an excellent description of the heavy, stiff, or 'resistant' side. Herbermann says that if the horse is heavy to the left, it is the right hind that is the horse's less preferred. In order to help the horse use both hind legs evenly he suggests several things. When riding on the difficult-to-bend side, the rider should send the horse forward with the inside leg, keep a steady and gentle contact with the outside rein, and feather the inside rein by releasing and then slowly closing the fingers back on the rein. He suggests saying twenty-one as you do so. When tracking the other direction, send the horse forward and keep the outside rein steady and the neck absolutely straight. Don't fiddle with the outside rein, but do maintain a passive contact on the inside rein.
The other tidbit I really enjoyed from that chapter was to give the aid, get a response, and then stop giving the aid. Bingo! Herbermann is big on letting the horse do his job. We shouldn't go around carrying the horse by doing his job for him. I have a tendency to nag. No more!
And then I got to Chapter 4. If you zip on over to your local Barns & Noble to have a peek at this book and you start reading some of it but you don't plan to actually buy it, READ CHAPTER 4! I wish I could just scan the chapter and let you read it. The chapter is called, "Working the Horse." It's basically a color by numbers explanation of exactly how to ride correctly. And for a lower level rider like myself, the advice has been perfectly expressed!
The first part that hit home was his description of the three principles of riding: calm, forward, and straight. The forward part really made sense. He says that when a horse is forward, the horse uses more energy than what is needed to get from one point to the next. Through the rider's influences, this excess energy is converted into rhythm. Rushing on the other hand is unbalanced and indicates fear or tension. Lazy movement indicates that the horse is on the forehand and isn't active behind.
The next part that gave me a total AHA! was the section on framing the horse. I've heard that term so many times, and it always sounds like a front to back description: Squeeze the horse forward, establish a wall in front with the bit, send the energy back through the rein. In Herbermann's world, the "frame" is on both sides of the horse! The left seat bone, leg, and rein contain the left side of the horse, and the right seat bone, leg, and rein contain the right side of the horse like two riverbanks through which the horse is allowed to flow forward. When the horse is forward and the riverbanks (the seat bone, leg, and rein) waterproof, the energy will be prevented from leaking out laterally. This "frames" the horse!
I've been working Sydney (and Speedy, too) with these images in mind. We're definitely making progress. Sydney goes back for lessons next week. We have returned to the pre-rearing and pre-bolting stage which is a good thing. We're now calm and relaxed, but we need to get softer and work better over the top line. I'll keep you posted!