“Rider + Horse = 1: How to achieve the fluid dialogue that leads to Harmonious Performance”, by Eckhart Meyners with Hannes Müller & Kerstin Niemann
A few months ago Sylvia asked me to review a book for the CRC. A daunting task as we are all so passionate about what we do that I am always a little nervous about putting forward an opinion but here goes.
The book in question is “Rider + Horse = 1: How to achieve the fluid dialogue that leads to Harmonious Performance”, by Eckhart Meyners with Hannes Müller & Kerstin Niemann
This book is slightly different in its approach as it focuses on the importance of the combination of horse and rider rather than one or the other. It also recognises the huge part played by the trainer and how, to have success, all three parts must work together.
It is a bold combination of theory and biomechanical expertise pertaining to both the horse and rider, embracing the traditional German training but going further try to explain the things that many very talented riders “feel” but struggle to put into words. Eckhart Meyners has already written books on rider biomechanics and fitness and goes a step further here with the co-authors to try to tie things in together.
The book starts with an explanation of the importance of the rider learning to ride with “function” rather than simply “form” explaining that for a rider to truly enhance their ability they need to do more than just read the books and do as they are told. The rider must learn to open a conversation with the horse and give it a voice as well. It does not go into great detail about how to execute perfect school figures but instead focuses on creating a compliance between horse and rider which makes the set pieces flow.
It is full of exercises for the rider, both mounted and dismounted, to help you learn which movements effect which parts of the body and how to release common rider weak/stiff points (stiff shoulders, sacrum, lumber spine etc) to allow the unspoken conversation between horse and rider to flow more easily. There is a warm-up routine pre riding that makes a lot of sense and (now the weather has improved which makes it a little bit nicer to roll around on the floor) I am going to give it a go.
The book follows closely the Scales of Training, explaining why it is important to do things in a balanced order but more than that, it opens up the structure in a slightly less strict manner, inviting the reader to find their own way without straying too far from the path. It warns about the risks of force and coercion and it very clear about the fact that training of either horse or rider takes time and can’t be rushed.
I very much liked the comments made regarding the trainer. The trainer must train from the perspective of the rider on top, not from the perspective of what they are seeing on the ground as the two can be worlds apart. It is very easy to stand on the ground and see what is wrong but it takes skill and patience to understand what the rider is (or is not) feeling and how to encourage them to develop the correct feelings.
The progressive nature of the book keeps it interesting and informative but it regularly reminds the reader to go back and re-read former passages that relate to the topic of discussion centred in each individual chapter. The photographs and diagrams are also well placed and informative.
It does have a few things in it that are difficult do achieve in the real world, such as the importance of novice riders learning on experienced horses and only experienced riders riding young or novice horses which, much as I agree wholeheartedly that this is the ideal, in reality, it is rarely possible as true school masters are few and far between (at least here in the UK) and there is a definite lack of riders capable of correctly educating the young horse but there is more to like than there is to dislike in my opinion.
I really enjoyed working through this book and there are several things that I have taken out of it that have already helped make things clearer in my own mind. It is certainly a worthy tool to have on the bookshelf or it the tack-room, particularly the rider exercises which are very beneficial to those of us who ride a lot on our own as it raises the body awareness which is vital if we really want to work with the movement of our horses rather than being a burden to them.
The whole concept of the fact that, to function in a worthy manner, we need to look at the unit of horse and rider as 1 single entity rather than 2 separate ones will certainly appeal to those of us who want to enhance our relationship with our horses and also, from a trainers point of view, to remind us to train the team, not the individual components.
Review by Sarah Williamson