Calm Forward and Straight
After Halter Training, Calm Forward and Straight is second most important part of a horse’s foundation. While halter training gives the horse the confidence to accept the training of calm forward and straight, it is only a rock solid calm forward and straight that makes any horse a safe horse to ride outdoors.
While most of today’s horsemanship uses circles to train a horse to submit, Calm Forward and Straight requires natural collection and the confidence that can only come with natural collection. In the Military model, the horses in general were of mild temperament and the halter training was more mass production rather than an art. If you read General Decarpentry work on work at the trot, you will realize he is correcting some of the submissive behavior taught in the military halter training. This might need to occur when mass-producing horsemanship. It might even be a better method. I was taught to preserve that spirit and natural collection in my halter training and I started too late in life to really test and evaluate the effects of adding more submissive training into the process as the military did.
When working with range raised and bred hot-blooded horses, it becomes clear that training the horse to submit really is not an option if you want the lightness that natural collection provides. There is no way to train a hot blooded horse to submit, then ask him to collect.
“When developing the training, the trainer must endeavor to use the horse’s instinct to the best advantage and, at least in the beginning, to act always in conformity with the horses natural impulses.” Decarpentry
You have to understand the horses natural impulses, before you can work with them and this is why the study of the natural horse has to be a core understanding. Modern horses have had their natural development replaced by generations of training and there is no valid way to separate natural impulses from artificial actions
In this program, we start working with the horses natural impulses right from halter training. I have to believe it is a better method, but it requires more skills at the bottom of the process than at the upper levels. When you are working with natural collection, a rock solid halter training foundation is critical.
I split calm forward and straight into two distinct functions. One is the mental function of calm forward and straight; the second is the physical function of straight. Modern horsemanship focuses on the physical straight part and largely ignores the mental part of calm forward and straight. I focus on the mental part of calm forward and straight, as is critical in an outdoor foundation.
The modern horse industry picks physically straight horses to train, so their process to produce straight in a horse is very weak, as the horses they choose to training are for the most part already straight. When you build a process that works with all horses, calm forward and straight becomes a far more involved process.
Peppy, is the most one-sided horse I have ever ridden. I suspect it was from an injury as a colt, but it takes me most of a summer to condition Peppy so his physical straight is almost straight. Smoky, is almost straight without out any conditioning or training. So if you are going to build a process to build calm forward and straight in a horse, you have to pick horses that are challenged, not the exceptional horses.
Calm forward and straight is integrated into the conditioning process. You are developing the mental foundation of calm forward and straight, conditioning the horse, confirming the basic aids, and refining physical straight all in the same process. There are no step-by-step instructions to accomplish this, but the military guidelines give a person a rough indication of the amount of riding it takes.
The mental foundation of calm forward and straight is the foundation that creates the correct conditioning in the horse and allows the rider to confirm the aids so he can use the aids to develop a physical straight. In modern horsemanship, we create straight by using the aids to oppose the horse’s natural movements, creating physical straight from mental stress. In a quality calm forward and straight, you would create a calm mental state then condition the horse to travel physically straight.
The core mental trait in calm forward and straight is confidence. If a horse is not confident, he will never have mental straightness, and you really cannot build correct physical straightness off of a horse that is submissive, or lacking confidence.
Until a horseman understands calm, forward and straight in horse, there is no foundation for the horse or the rider that can support a correct Campaign stage.