A Safer Way to Ride
Statistics indicate that one in five riders eventually suffer at least one serious horse- related injury resulting in hospitalization. Incidents of horse injuries have not diminished in spite of all the new and improved helmets and protective vests that have come on the market in recent years. The problem is huge and one that many in the horse industry have turned a blind eye to. In the meantime, riders and horses are injured every day because they are in close proximity.
In spite of new safety equipment, no significant changes have been made in equitation itself or in horse training to reduce these catastrophic events. The riding and training methods currently available are based on the assumption that horses must learn “respect” and be forced to comply with riders’ wishes. Another assumption is that it takes years of riding experience before riders will sit securely in the saddle. The end result of this paradigm is that relatively small, uncomfortable, ill-equipped humans perch themselves upon the back of uncomfortable, forcefully restrained thousand-pound animals and only luck will keep them safe.
The Matching Feet program offers a new paradigm. The focus of the program is to teach equestrians and horses to work together safely, with enthusiasm, and in harmony. Before riders ever mount horses, both humans and equines must be relaxed, focused on each other, self-confident, and have confidence in their partners. The Matching Feet program teaches riders to be responsible for their horse’s mental and physical health. It offers a series of exercises to help riders become mentally fit so that they can listen to and feel their horses from the twitch of an ear down to the soles of their hooves. The riders learn to understand the language of horses and to assess horses’ mental and physical well-being. Riders also learn to speak to horses in a language horses understand.
The Matching Feet program breaks down the communication barrier between horses and riders. As two-way communication develops, riders learn when horses are mentally ready to be ridden or to perform new tasks. Horses develop confidence that they will never be asked to do something they are not mentally or physically prepared to do and learn to trust their riders. As mutual trust builds between horses and riders, they relax, focus on each other and become confident in their joint abilities.
Another key aspect of Matching Feet is that both horses and riders must have the physical fitness to fulfill their part in the equine-human dance. Horses who are required to carry weight that is too heavy for their frame, musculature, and conformation, or are made to carry unbalanced riders will suffer unnecessary injuries and wear and tear. At the same time, riders who are not agile and cannot move with their horses will not be able to effectively influence their horses’ direction, gait, length of stride, lightness and balance.
Riders learn exercises to increase their own balance, endurance, strength, and agility. They learn how to move like horse to enable them to move with their horses when mounted. Riders learn specific exercises to teach their horses to improve their physical strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, and coordination. They also learn to assess their horse’s health including checking their horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration.
Another issue that is addressed in the Matching Feet program is whether horses are pain-free. Pain or discomfort, or the fear of pain or discomfort, entraps horses in survival mode where they will respond by attempting fight, flight, or freeze behaviors. Consequently, horses in survival mode cannot relax, or focus on their riders. Instead, they may display a host of behavior problems to reduce the discomfort that is over-whelming them including running away, kicking, rearing, head-tossing, pulling, and coming above or behind the bit. When horses are focused on evading pain and discomfort they are not focused on being ridden. Consequently they are dangerous to ride.
Probably the most common cause of pain and discomfort is the use of bits. Current equation methods require controlling horse through increasingly severe bits and gimmicks such as tie-downs, side-reins, spurs, and crops. However, the end result is that horses become even more lost in their survival instinct and further lose touch with their riders and handlers. Tense, barely controlled horses have tight muscles and are prone to injuries and physical breakdowns. They are not safe to ride and certainly do not know the joys of being ridden.
In the Matching Feet program horses are ridden bitless so that pain does not distract them from their ability to concentrate. In fact, in the Matching Feet program, tense horses are not ridden until they relax and are mentally and physically fit to ride. Similarly, riders are not allowed to mount a horse until they are relaxed, focused, self-confident, have confidence in their horses, and are physically fit. Riders and horses who have gone through the Matching Feet program are not afraid of each other. They are mentally and physically fit and trust each other to keep themselves safe.
Learn first-hand how you can create a deep and lasting relationship with your horse.
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