“Two minds must want to do what two bodies can.”
This famous quote of Bent Branderup embodies all aspects I find important in being together with horses.
The relationship between human and horse is defined by communication. To communicate two elements are essential. We humans have to understand the body language of the horse to understand how the horse feels and what he is telling us. Secondly, we need to learn to control our own body language to be able to speak to the horse on their level and communicate what we want. To be able to do that we need to be aware of our mindset, the thought patterns that determine our experience of reality, which expresses itself in our body language. When we are aware of the glasses through which we see the world we can analyze where our thought patterns are hindering, and change them. This process is never finished, our development of the mind will happen our entire lives.
I use my knowledge of psychology to coach my students toward becoming conscious trainers of their horses. I have a master degree in organizational psychology at the Radboud University Nijmegen.
Working with horses begins with meeting the horse and simple things like putting on the halter. During these meetings, a lot of information is exchanged, even though we might not be aware of it. It is our job to make sure that the horse can feel comfortable around us. To be able to do that, we need softness and clarity, a difficult combination. When we have mastered this skill, we can do whatever we want: hacking the horse outside, riding dressage, you name it. The relationship between human and horse is always the highest priority, whatever discipline we choose. Everything we do should contribute to a sustainable and pleasureable bond with the horse, so that this bond may grow to be very deep and meaningful.
My work is founded in the philosophy of de Paardenmaat and my father, Piet Nibbelink.
To be able to be very precise in our bodylanguage we need a good body awareness. The importance of this only increases when we mount the horse. The horse can feel a fly landing on this back, now image you sitting there. Our imbalances have a huge impact on the horse, so we need to also work on ourselves.
How is up to you. The one will find it in yoga, the other in bodywork or a movement method. I myself like to used Centered Riding and Feldenkrais. A quote of Moshe Feldenkrais that resonates with me is: “If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”
Before we start training, the first priority is that all basic needs of the horse are met. Think of social horsekeeping, good hoofcare, the right feeding structure and if needed the help of a vet of chiropractor. I work together with professionals on these topics.
A horse is not made to carry a human. In the natural balance of a horse the weight of the rider can cause a lot of problems, because this weight is carried by the front legs. The joints of the frontlegs are hinge joints, which means they cannot bend in them and are not able to carry the extra weight with muscles. Instead, they carry the extra weight with joints, tendons and ligaments. Which is the reason so many horses have frontleg injuries. The hind legs of the horse do have a possibility of bending, because of the function of hips, knees and hocks. There they can carry the extra weight with muscles, which makes the hind legs more suitable to carry the rider weight.
We want to be riders, so it is our job to make sure that the horse is strong enough to carry us. In practice this means that we need to train the horse to change the natural balance into a balance in which the horse carries more weight on the hindquarters, so that the frontlegs can remain healthy. The dressage for the horse consists of exercies that strenghten the hindquarters, make the hindquarters more flexible and in the end challenge the horse to transfer their point of weight more toward the hindquaters.
The Academic Art of Riding by Bent Branderup® is a training method with logical successive steps that strengthen and supple up the horse. It brings the knowledge of the old masters with insights about biomechanics and more out of modern science. Combined, this makes the art of riding fitting to today. The academic art of riding does not limit itself to the physical training of the horse. It embraces the philosohy of human and horse becoming one, as a centaur feeling. The ‘art’ in academic art of riding is the moments where it all comes together, where two souls want what to bodies can.
Since 2018 I am a licensed Bent Branderup Trainer®. I pursue the ideals of the academic art of riding with heart and soul and am dedicated to share these ideals with others.