Silversand Programme



The Silversand Horsemanship Programme is designed to teach the principles of good Horsemanship to people who desire to work in a way that is more fitting to our horse's point of view.

It takes into account the horse's natural way of dealing with new situations and places and works on the supposition that he is always trying his best to deal with what is being presented to him. It is also the awareness that some things appear to the horse to be of a life threatening nature although this is not always apparent to us.

In fact the hardest thing for us as humans to do is to be able to see things from our horse's perspective. If we are unable to do this we will never truly get to the point where we can work together with the unity that comes from being totally tuned into each other.

The programme is divided into two parts at present, Foundation skills and Advancing skills.  Foundation skills is further divided into three parts to help break things down into progressive steps.

The Foundation skills are designed to teach you how a horse thinks and learns, and has an emphasis on safety and control. There is a three DVD set available to help you with these skills.

The Advancing skills take on the concepts learned in the Foundation skills and move into more accurate patterns and body suppling exercises. In this part you will learn how to control your horse accurately in all sorts of different environments at high energy levels (speeds) while keeping your horse confident. At the end of this section you should have the knowledge to safely and confidently ride your horse anywhere.

The Advancing skills are for people with serious goals and will include advanced gymnastic exercises and collected lateral work.  This is an area that we will develop in conjunction with Philip Nye who will be my mentor. The whole programme is designed to help both horse and human develop their confidence progressively and gives the horse the opportunity to respond to our cues without fear or resistance.

The purpose of the programme is to teach you skills - it is not designed to be a test. To this end our horse's needs and our own principles become more important than goals. They need to be confident about us as leaders. We never wish them to be frightened of what we are asking as this will result in a loss of confidence and ultimately hinder the softness and unity we are hoping to achieve.

The Aims of the Programme

Horses have evolved over millions of years to survive in an environment where they depend on having highly developed survival instincts. These instincts were essential if horses were to avoid being the meal of one of many predators. Even though horses that we generally deal with today have been domesticated for generations, this survival instinct is still very strong and when aroused the horse's behaviour can change in a fraction of a second in order to save its life from a perceived  threat.  I say perceived threat because we may see absolutely nothing that could be of any danger to our horse, but our horse may have a totally different view of the situation.

The main aim of the Silversand Horsemanship Programme is to provide you with a system that can enable your horse to perform confidently with responsive yields at higher and higher energy levels (speeds).

The initial aim is to teach you some good habits that if practised enough become automatic, just the same way as you would drive your car. Once you have been driving for a while you do not consciously have to think about every gear change or every adjustment of the steering wheel.

To achieve the aim, we need to understand the following:

•  The importance of a confident horse
•  The importance of responsive yields on a confident horse
•  The importance of accurate patterns with responsive yields on a confident horse

This is a simple formula that, once understood, can help you attain your goals with your horse. Successful use of the model requires us to have a clear understanding of the above statements.
The confident horse has a certain look about it. Usually it will look relaxed, if at a halt it may cock a leg, have a soft look about its eyes, its head will probably be not too much higher than its withers. Most of you will already know this look very well and you will also recognise that an unconfident horse will probably show the opposite of these postures.

The responsive yield can be defined as when your horse confidently moves away from a feel applied to it - either by a rein, leg or some other tool that you may use to apply the cue - in soft relaxed manner. That was a very short definition for a term that is often misunderstood, even amongst people who have been practising  Horsemanship for a number of years.  Imagine you are with someone you really trust and are really relaxed with; it is someone you would be happy to help and would be honoured if there was something that you could do for them. How much effort would they need to use to ask you to do something for them? Would you get irritated and defensive if they asked something of you? Would your body tense up and brace against the thought of some pressure that was being applied to you (whether mental or physical)?  I think you would be happy to help and it would take only a suggestion from someone like this and you would respond without any tension or resistance. This is how I feel a horse needs to respond before we could class the response as a yield. I think it would take a whole book to really cover this one subject but I hope this is a good enough explanation for now.

An accurate pattern could be anything from a circle, figure eight, serpentine, or cloverleaf right up to a reining pattern or a dressage test as long as it is done with responsive yields on a confident horse. The main thing here is that your horse puts his feet exactly where you want them as accurately as you can place your own feet.