Christopher Bartle’s Review of How Your Horse Moves:
I first met Gillian Higgins when she came for training with her Event horses as a young rider in about 2000. She showed then a talent and interest not just in competing her horses but also in understanding the system of training. As a trainer I have always wanted to first understand the logic behind a system of training and then to explain to riders, not just what to do but why it makes sense to do it. An understanding of the biomechanics helps a rider to train more sympathetically as well as more effectively. Gillian’s obvious interest in the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ led to her going on to train as an Equine Remedial Therapist. Having seen Gillian’s ‘Horses Inside Out’ presentation, when I was asked if I would read her book, I was immediately interested and not disappointed. The step-by- step, thorough explanation of the musculoskeletal system and its relationship to schooling and conditioning the sport horse is both sufficiently detailed for the serious student whilst being easy to read and follow. The book is attractively laid out with clever use of live ‘models’ to show how the various components of the horse’s body function and develop during a horse’s sporting career. I especially like the ‘Top Tips’ and the summaries at the end of each section.
Gillian’s knowledge of the principles of training combined with the understanding of how the musculoskeletal system functions enables her to offer useful advice and tips on schooling. The sections on ‘The Way of Going’ and ‘The Gaits’ help to clarify the relationship between the expressions used in training and dressage judging to the form and function of the horse’s body.
As any of us who have participated in sport know, we will be affected by muscle soreness as a result of exercise and we all benefit from deep massage and stretching exercises. The horse is no different so the sections describing common problems and then on how to persuade the horse to perform useful stretching exercises by using a combination
of carrot and reflexes is very practical. If performed regularly, it is also useful in assessing if there are any musculoskeletal problems or changes that are the root cause of schooling difficulties. Professional help can then be called upon before the problem causes a mental
block on the part of the horse.
The brief section on choice of horse is not just helpful in finding and purchasing a horse but also in understanding where the horse may struggle to perform when their conformation or type does not lend itself ideally to the chosen discipline. The combination of this understanding together with correct and sympathetic training will enable riders and trainers to get the most out of the horse that they have.
I am always looking for books and other ideas to recommend to my students to improve their understanding of how a horse performs and the logic of the training system. This will certainly be one of them.