All posts by Richard

My family has lived in the New Forest, near Southampton since 1972 which is a most beautiful part of England, where native ponies roam wild, but we have to go back to when I was 14 to discover what kindled my love of horses. We, as in my family moved from Portsmouth to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, due to my father getting a posting in the prison service. My younger sister wanted to ride on the weekends at the local riding school, so my parents tasked me, as older brother to escort my sister to the stables so she could ride. Whilst my sister rode out, I would stay behind and help the gentleman who owned the establishment sort and train the other horses, and as a reward for my help he would privately teach me riding. He showed me a lot, and was of a very encouraging nature which planted the seed in me for my life's relationship with horses. If he knew what his encouragement has nurtured, I would like to think he would be proud. I joined the Army as a mechanical engineer REME in 1972, and was subsequently attached to cavalry units where people owned polo ponies and eventers, so when time allowed I was down at the stables with them. I consider it was the army that instilled in me to approach training in a way that it must be understood. In 1981 I married Bobbie and after leaving the Army moved to the New Forest where our shared passion for horses soon had us back in the saddle. After several years competing, I was very lucky to meet and ride with the eminent Portuguese horse master Joao Oliveira, the son of the legendary Nuno Oliveira. This man turned on the light bulb for me and from this meeting I truly started to understand how training was structured; that riding was from the mind and body, not the hands and heels. The years of hard practice that followed, allowed me eventually to perform many entertaining displays throughout the UK. Through my performing and travels I have been very lucky to meet and ride with many of the greatest masters of European horsemanship; I hold their friendship most dear for they are today’s key holders of the art. I have spent considerable time discussing the finer points of equitation with these eminent horsemen, which has allowed me to appreciate how they approached training, and there personal techniques. My passion for understanding, has led to many hours studying the great literary works of the past masters, I would not like to consider how much time I've spent with my head in a book. Appreciating the history and the development of horse training may not make a better rider, but it allows the rider when facing a problem to consider other routes, that may be easier for the horse to understand; correspondingly this has allowed me to assist others in how to approach their training and understanding. Being able to explain how movements developed through history, from where they originated and their purpose brings structure to movements, which then helps in creating clearer guidance towards training. I have been told that I have become renowned for my way of clearly explaining how training and riding works and progresses, coupling this with a logical process, linked with a psychological approach, allows all to understand. My calm nature shows how thought is the most powerful tool for the rider and education is imperative, which leads riders to see there is no magical processes or amazing quirky methods, and that basic tack is best, with no need for gadgetry.

Spanish walk

Bernie Spanish walkSpanish walk is of great value to many horses and yet often overlooked as a circus trick. It has many benefits as it frees the shoulder, lifts the horse from the for hand and for some can be the start to passage as it is pushed into trot. I am often asked how do I start this exercise and so will publish my method here for all to try.

Spanish Walk is a series of transitions, before the final aids are completely understood by the horse. Believe it or not the very first step to starting a horse to do this, is picking a horses feet out. A horse should pick their feet up on demand, not by us pulling. I always say the foot is attached to their leg therefore they lift it. Start this process by tapping the front of the cannon bone with something solid enough to irritate. Be patient and a little dogmatic but never lose your temper, but persevere till the horse moves its leg. This will probably be a stamp. Praise the horse highly and repeat, soon in a few days you should be able to the hold the horses lifted foot and clean it. This then can be taken into the school.
Starting on the ground.

      1. Tap the front of the cannon bone with your whip and the horse will now lift its leg, walk forwards, halt and repeat and walk.
      2. Once the first step is almost anticipated by the horse ask whilst the horse is walking slowly forward. The leg will need to be taped at around the moment it is vertical and about to go back. This will give the brain time to consider the leg has to be raised although they are moving. As they lift the leg and because they are still going forward they have to place it out in front of themselves ready for the next step. Some horse may stop and stamp, here work needs doing with the horses understanding walk on when you ask for it.
      3. Don’t forget praises and making much of the horse.
      4. Work one leg on one rein until the horse starts to anticipate the stick and lifts the leg stretching it out, also don’t make the horse bored and don’t let them get lazy.
      5. Work on the other rein and the other leg till understood.
      6. Asking for a high leg action is good but not all lift their legs horizontal, but a straight leg is a must. Often at this point the horse will offer their first steps of Spanish walk if you tap both legs in succession, but at this stage not important, fun, but if riding this movement is to be obtained go to the next step.

 

Riding

      1. Tap the leg with stick, get reaction and walk forward. At this point it may help to have another person on the ground that helps trigger the movement.
      2. Move the whip up the leg to the shoulder obtaining the same results and ensure the horse walks forward whist lifting the leg. At this time we are not looking for a rhythm but for understanding and anticipation.
      3. With 2 obtained when you bring the whip to the shoulder you will raise that hand and rein as you ask, this will importantly remove weight from the leg being lifted and allowing it more freedom to move. Do not worry to much about where the horse carries their head at this point because they will use it to aid their balance.
      4. Obtain one stride SW then walk four normal, ask again the one stride SW and repeat on both reins till achieved without the horse needing to stop when being asked, it should be a fluid walk. The walk also should not be hurried and try not to use any other aids whilst the horse is concentrating.
      5. Reduce the number of strides of normal walk. The horse should now be able to lift its leg every stride on one rein and correspondingly the same on the other.
      6. Before asking for both legs first attempt the Waltz which is one stride SW-R, normal L, normal R, SW-L, normal R, normal L, SW-R and so forth.
      7. Following this you can start asking for both legs and at this time the horse should start reacting to the hand being lifted.
      8. This movement is transitions between left and right rein and therefore must be ridden as such. If the right leg is being raised the rider needs to sit on their left outside seat bone, so as to lighten the right shoulder and then if necessary maintain forward movement with a light right inside leg, so to ask for the left leg is a change of rein with opposite aids. There is a rhythm to the movement and needs to be found so it is fluid.
      9. The final transition is not needing to raise the hand, because as you remove your weight from the leg and sit on your outside seat bone the horse will raise the leg.
      10. Enjoy and smile and impress. Try things like getting the horse to wave good by to people as they leave, they will be impressed because they don’t know how you are asking, also when out and a dog starts barking ride at the dog they tend to back off.

Hope this helps some to have a go and horses find it enjoyable as well.

Richard Chamberlin

Horses held with/without contact

Nuno Oliveira wrote in Reflections on equestrian art, the following small chapter “Horses held with/without contact.” He says.

I regret very much that so many riders are not acquainted with the book Extérieur et Haute Ecole, written by Captain Beudant.

Therein it may be read that it is only by allowing horses to move on a free rein, and not in holding them in, that success may be obtained. Riders who hold in their horses are insignificant riders and will never advance.
Riders who give their horses freedom are those who will taste the delicacies of equestrian art.

English Authors

I was in discussion with Frederico Schiappa Pietra Saramago the other day and we discussed many things, but one of the subjects that astonished him, was how few British people know about or have read the works of our greatest past masters. I also notice that when I mention William Cavendish (The Duke of Newcastle) or James Fillis many people have a blank expression on their faces. This is a sad situation as these two people contributed such a large amount in knowledge and development towards the understanding of horse training.

Although William Cavendish fled England during the civil war, to end up having his riding school in Antwerp, at the house that Rubens had resided in. It gave him time to develop his work on horses and allowed him to publish his work “Méthode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux” or “A General System of Horsemanship” as is available in English. His method advanced the techniques used then and which still influence today’s training. He has been rewarded with the title of the father of Shoulder In, of which is still one of the most influential tool in the hands of any trainer

James Fillis developed a huge reputation throughout Europe and Russia by displaying his mastery and easily understood training methods. This being a blog and not a book I invite you all to look him up and discover his exploits. His method of equitation consisted, in his own words, of: “distribution of weight by the height of the neck, bent at the poll, and not at the withers; propulsion by means of the hocks being brought under the body; and lightness by loosening of the lower jaw”. This was a development from François Baucher method who he had trained under. If only this was understood and practised today! How many people who use the ordinary stirrup to ride in, know that it was designed by him and was known as the Fillis safety stirrup. His work “Principes de dressage et d’équitation” or “Breaking and riding” as it’s known in England should be the handbook of all who want to take their understanding of equitation to a level of greater clarity, and like the idea of lightness.

If you know these works you know where I come from with this post, if you don’t please give a little of your time to take in what these masters spent their lives working on to help us.

A poem “Riding”

Riding

By Richard Chamberlin

Riding is the elegant display of structure.

We should only consider this an art, with poetic terms, which can reveal a moment of communion.

How easy to strip bare with a few careless actions cast in anger, they ripple against that we love forever.

The mystery therefore is often quite simple.

One of the best quotes to understanding.

“I concentrate mainly on exercising his mind and his memory, in such a way that I achieve what I want: so that it is the horse’s mind which I work the most: the mind of the rider must work perpetually as well, in order to detect all kinds of opportunities to arrive at my goal, without letting any movement pass unnoticed, nor any opportunity unused.”
Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 – 1620)
Pluvinel