Jec A. Ballou

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

Many of us make our horses stiffer with our attempts at kindness. Aiming for light and forgiving rein contact, we sometimes make the mistake of too much looseness, which feels erratic and unclear to the horse. Rather than improving our horse’s balance and physiology, we cause him to fall apart immediately following moments of correct movement.

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

What counts as calisthenics? And why do they matter? Luckily, someone interrupted my rhapsody during a clinic last week praising the value of calisthenics for developing equine athletes. What exactly did I mean by calisthenics? the student asked. She was probably not alone in wondering, lost as I was describing the power of these exercises.

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage, exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

For those of us who can measure our involvement with horses by decades rather than days or months, showing up at the barn can feel like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. With a few minor variations, our days follow a similar routine. And while these routines are generally satisfying, they open the door for burnout. Even when you love your horse or horse training career wildly, this sameness gets dull.

jec ballou equestrian training, jec ballou blog

Somewhere along the path of their learning journeys, many riders including myself became conditioned to constantly observe and correct the horse’s head and neck position. We were taught that if the horse’s head/neck was in a desirable frame, it meant everything about our ride was going well. This led to over-prioritizing the front end of the horse, often at the expense of addressing all the other critical components of a horse’s body mechanics. Without realizing it, we spent the ride fidgeting with the bit above all else.

should i time my horse's ride? How do you train a horse by feel? how much time should I ride my horse? jec ballou horse traiing

For years, the sage advice of classical dressage master Nuno Oliveira guided my daily rides. I had read a quote by him deriding the use of a watch or any kind of timepiece when schooling a horse. His philosophy was that riders needed to school by feeling and responding to the horse rather than by any kind of external measurements or parameters. I adopted this idea wholeheartedly for many years, modulating the duration of my training exercises and sessions based on how I felt the horse was, or was not, making gains from them.

conditioning horse, core for horse, calisthenics horses, posture horses

For most horses, it is in the area of strength that they can — and need to — make the most gains. Evolution has given horses remarkable aerobic adaptations. Generally speaking, they make rapid gains from cardiovascular exercise and their bodies handle aerobic demands efficiently. Their musculoskeletal system, however, lacks the same adaptability.

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

Believe me when I tell you that I love freedom as much as anyone. I love trimming away boundaries, living widely in each moment. And yes, I love to watch a beautiful horse running free across a meadow with his legs surging and his expression content. That, to me, is a wonderful sight. On the other hand, a horse careening around a round pen with his neck twisted sideways and his body misaligned disgruntles me.

Pages

Advertisement

HorseLic - The Right Nutrition

Advertisement

Canadian Quarter Horse Association