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Remember: I do not ride or train horses!

April 6, 2017

“The key isn’t in the amount of movement, but in the amount of relaxation in the movement. Asking for even a tiny range of motion in a relaxed state is 10 times more effective than asking for a large movement in an non-relaxed state,” (Jim Masterson,)

Remember: I do not ride or train horses!

But, the more we demand greater understanding we often find the gems from other fields of knowledge. It is in this exploration that we improve our own knowledge.
I have just finished a book by the author referred in this article (Dr. Gerd Heuschmann: Tug of War: Classical Versus Modern Dressage): MANY of the same points we are facing in dog sports:
“The hunt for success and recognition doesn’t allow time and space for thoughtful, quiet work with the horse and a naturally orientated training process.”

Success in dog sports is all about wins, titles, record breaking achievements: greatest number of wins, youngest dogs to win ****, team inclusion, whereas we should orientate our energy to the sports having benefit for the dog as an individual level as well as at a species level – how dogs are perceived.

“Everyone, trainers and riders, must agree on the training goals: we want to produce horses that are relaxed, content and healthy and who bring their  riders joy in the dressage arena or in other venues as reliable pleasure horses.”

If you have now snorted because dog sports are not your interest, consider that the protocols develop in dog sports WILL find their way into everyday life for every day “pleasure” ownership of dogs.

Social media selectively shows successes in tricks that entertain often at a cost to the dog, the perceptions of what dogs are and what is normal behaviour.
Often because there is a degree of copying but more often because this person does not have an interest in the long term welfare of their dog this type of self-promotion can cause long term harm in the name of fun and status.

The dedicated sports trainers are enjoying fit, active, healthy dogs in older life for much longer than 20 or 30 years ago. This has taken knowledge and understanding to develop the correct foundations, build the right muscles, structure, balance and mental capacity for competition or performance work.
How many young dogs are retired or withdrawn early because of the rush and unbalanced training they have endured?

It's my drum and I want to bang it

Many trainers are falling into the same trap as described in this article. I can speak with authority on heelwork to music and freestyle. They are training the “big muscles”, the heel positions with unstable, often immature, dogs that do not have the foundations to sustain the postures. A disproportionate amount of time spent on movements that are flashy or entertaining at a cost of simple, structurally necessary movements that build strength and resistance in the supporting muscles.

We commonly see dogs competing at all levels that vocalise during movement, trying to communicate in the only way they know how, that they are NOT happy. Either struggling physically with the balance or speed requested or under the unprepared mental stress. The response is so often “shut up”. A barking dog is penalised in our sport. A barking dog is desperate. Judges are often unable to tell the difference between happy barking as an expression of joy and arousal and stress barking as an expression of discomfort.

Sports with our beloved dogs or horses should never be at the animal’s expense of their mental or physical well-being. We need to ensure that when human nature gets carried away with the euphoria of success that the dog is protected from the thoughtlessness and extremes. Trainers, organising bodies, judges and competitors all have a responsibility to dogs.

(But I am not so sure that my mental well-being is suitable challenged when reading this article and coping with a flashing advert on fungal infections pop up. No I have not been searching for it)

If you want to excite your interests:

I am introducing and running workshops on dressage for dogs:
Association British Canine Dressage:

I have a course running through the summer on teaching sports dogs the foundation skills:

If your dog is already competing:

More thoughtfulness:






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