In Straightness Training the rider is the Personal Fitness Trainer of his horse.
As personalized fitness coach we educate and motivate the horse.
Here's what a Personal Trainer does for his horse:
Step 1. Assess the Natural Asymmetry
First of all it's important to now if your horse is left or right bended and all the other dimensions of natural assymmetry.
You can use the checklist, which you can download here:
Of course take into account any current medical conditions or constraints.
Once you know the horse's current level of fitness and what needs to be straightened, you can go to the next step.
Step 2. Set Long-Term and Short-Term Goals
Next, you will set short-term and long-term goals for you and your horse.
Short-term goals are measurable factors, such as buying a cavesson and longe line, teaching the horse the exercises 'forward down' and 'stelling and bending' at a standstill and suppling up the bend in the body on the circle.
Long-term goals are achieving flexibility, gaining strength, build muscle and improving your horse's overall health in a year or more and maintaining it for a lifetime. Horse training is not a 'quick fix' rather it's a multi-year plan. The horse requires long and careful exercising of the individual parts of his body and of his mental capabilities before he is able to move his body in all directions easily and gracefully.
Step 3. Make a Plan
Create a personalized plan for your horse to achieve the short-term and long-term "fitness" goals.
You'll start with groundwork or with liberty training. Later on you'll start to add the longeing exercises and some work in hand exercises. And then you'll get back to riding. In the end, by combining all training components, you'll mix up flexibility training, strength training and 'aerobic' trot/canter training.
To achieve flexibility, gain strength, and build muscles it's important to know which training components you want to use and which exercises, in what order. The entire training of the horse is a logically ordered system of horse gymnastics. All exercises have its purpose and its essence, and are related and follow one another in a logical sequence.
The particular talent or weakness of a horse may permit deviations in the sequence of the exercises, or may often even demand such deviations. It's the task of you, as 'fitness' trainer, to determine the specific sequence suitable for each individual horse.
When your horse is also a little overweight, a nutritional plan needs to be included to coincide with your "fitness" plan.
Step 4. Teach How It Has To Be Done
The next step after creating your personal plan is to teach the horse how to do the exercises and to make sure the horse is doing them correctly.
As a personal fitness training it’s very important to know the 'why' of every exercise and when performing these exercises the essence must be well observed, to make sure we don't do only the 'names' as if it were isolated tricks, but that we really address the right body parts and the right muscles.
Body position is key with most exercises, and it’s a your job to monitor your horse, to make sure he's doing the exercises effectively and to alter the program as necessary.
By showing increasing strength and ease, the horse will let us know when he is ready for the next step. And by the addition of the next exercise all previous exercises will improve. So the exercises in Straightness Training are not isolated, but are related and support each other and give benefits to each other.
Step 5. Motivate and Cheer
One of the most crucial roles of the you as personal trainer is to motivate your horse to do the exercises and to cheer him on to do his best.
And remember: training and "exercising" is supposed to be fun 🙂
Avoid boredom with your horse's 'workouts', by mixing the training components throughout the week.
Here are some more tips on how to become a better horse trainer: