An Outstanding Foundation for All Types of Riding
So many books and videos and clinics are about the techniques for a specific type of riding — eventing, dressage, Western pleasure, and so on. Improve Everything describes how to build a foundation of happiness, harmony, and communication that will make those techniques much easier for you and your horse. Karen is a dressage rider, but this book is applicable to riders and horses in all disciplines. I read Improve Everything as an audio book, but it’s also available as a Kindle book.
Karen introduces a Training Pyramid with Happiness, Harmony and Communication as the Foundation levels. Techniques and the discipline of Dressage are the next levels — and Dressage success depends on building a good foundation at lower levels of the Pyramid.
According to Improve Everything, you and horse’s understanding of one another has to comes first. If your horse regards you as a threat, it really doesn’t matter whether your aids are correct. If your horse doesn’t trust you, you’ll always have problems communicating your wishes to your horse. The aids that will work with your horse will depend on your relationship with your horse.
One of Karen’s examples is a dressage horse named Phoenix, owned by a friend. The story of Phoenix led down a road that combined performing at higher levels of dressage with increasing behavioral and physical problems. Karen’s friend had owned Phoenix as a foal, and the friend was shocked when she met him again. So the friend bought Phoenix back and asked Karen for help.
Karen’s first priority was to make Phoenix a happy horse, so she worked on partnership and harmony. It was a slow, incremental process to become a partner in Phoenix’s eyes. Nine months later Phoenix was happily schooling in every aspect of dressage that he knew how to do.
It’s a short audiobook, and that’s all the better because it’s easy to listen to again and again. I listened the first time while stacking hay in my barn, but I wanted to listen to it again a week later so I could take notes. I know this is an audiobook I’ll return to regularly for new infusions of clarity and inspiration.
I wish I’d read this 20 years ago — assuming that Karen could have written it 20 years ago. I’d have avoided broken ribs, a bruised lung and a concussion, and my horses and I would have been much happier working together.