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When Horses Know the Answer. A visit with Warwick Schiller

Published: 1/27/2016
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Editor's Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She runs Essence Horsemanship, rides and teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, Randy Rieman, and many others.

Warwick Schiller runs Warwick Schiller Performance Horsemanship from his California base. The Australian travels internationally and has over 350 online, educational videos.

Read more about Amy here.

Read more Journals & Journeys here

By Amy Skinner

At the Equine Affaire, Warwick's presentation was titled: “Your Horse Needs to Know the Answer Before You Ask the Question”

[Photo at left, Schiller visits with NickerNews crew: Maddy Butcher, Amy Skinner, Raechel Nelson, Emily Luciano.]

I walked into his demonstration with a pad, a pen, and a question mark over my head. Why would you ask a question you already knew the answer to? I wondered what the title of his demonstration meant as I adjusted my things on the bleachers, sitting close enough to be able to hear. A young girl nervously handwalked her lanky chestnut as Warwick entered the arena. I scooted closer on my seat.

After introducing himself, he cut right into explaining the title of his demo by relating a story about proposing to his wife, Robyn. “I knew she was the one for me when I first met her,” he said. “But asking her at that moment would have resulted in a Big Fat ‘No.’”

He continued by explaining how he spent time getting to know her, building a relationship, and developing common interests, so that by the time he dropped to one knee, he knew without a doubt she'd say yes.

“It's not a set of training ideologies but actually a life philosophy,” said Warwick.

He had the young woman hop on her horse and helped her develop lightness in her forehand-heavy gelding. Warwick stressed the need to break the horse's foundational learning into simple, small parts, relating it to a kindergartner.

"You have to learn to count before you can add," he said. Trying to add before a child has a solid grasp on counting results in failure and frustration. “Teach little things well. Add two little things together, and you have one really good big thing,” he said.

He had the young rider work on a few halts and noted her horse dove onto the front end and hollowed his back each time, resulting in poor self carriage as a habit. He stressed the importance of correct posture in each maneuver so as to teach it in big maneuvers later.
“You need to keep the horse inside the horse,” he said. He explained how a horse's movements should always resemble something they would do naturally without a person on their backs, and that people destroy their posture through poor training. Training should always improve its movements. Rather than force it into a new posture, he explained it was more effective to ask him to do something where he would have to change his shape to accomplish it on his own.

“Don't ask him to do the things you want,” he explained. “Ask him to do something he can't do without doing what you want.”

To improve the young horse's stop, he asked the girl to walk her horse down the fence and asked her to turn him into the fence and go the other way. In order to turn tightly this way, he would have to sit on his hocks and collect a bit for a moment, making stopping with lightness a little easier. In time, the young horse was prepared to stop when she asked and did so without leaning into her hands. “Set them up and let them find it,” said Warwick.

By the end of the demo, the chestnut was carrying himself in a more balanced and relaxed manner. The young girl had also achieved a little more understanding of her horse's movements and the importance of the small pieces in a horse's foundation.

Warwick concluded his demo by explaining that working on a horse's foundation slowly gave the fastest results. “I don't want to get to the beginning as quick as I can, I want to get to the end as quickly as I can,” he said. Slow, accurate work, in which the rider sets the horse up to find the answers on his own without pressure, was what proves necessary and successful. The result, Warwick promised, is a horse who carries himself well, and is relaxed, responsive, and confident.

Check out Warwick Schiller here.

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8/14/2016 Valerie B
I've been following Warwick for awhile now. I signed up for his training videos online and I can honestly say he has made a HUGE difference in firstly my horsemanship and the quality of my horses lives. Because I changed me by learning more about horse behaviour my horses and I are much happier and safer! Make sense? Check him out.

"No horseman or horsewoman has ever finished learning" - Mary Gordon-Watson