Training Icelandic Horses, on the Bit


Eidfaxi in their 3-2005 edition published an article about an old horse trainer in Iceland,  Ragnar Hinriksson.   It was based on interview and the article has some really great quotes about how you ride and train successfully.  You don’t find this much in print written so directly about training.  The article is really well written with a lot of pertinent experienced direction about training riding horses like this...

Ragnar Hinriksson:

“Horses never forget it if they learn tolt with harshness and rein pulling; it just creates tension problems, tongue problems and stiffness on the rein.

…The best way to fix this is to rely on the feeling in your fingers.  The rider must be unafraid and relaxed and have good balance.  You have to ride the horse away from the rein; then touch the rein and get a reaction, after which you give it back immediately so the horse does not get the chance to put his tongue over the bit.  You continue with this repeatedly.  It is very good to listen to the sound coming from the bit and horse’s mouth, when he puts his tongue under the bit and begins to chew.  The magic lies in getting the horse to let go of his fear of the bit and to answer to the rein, but you do this without having a constant and rather heavy pressure on the bit.  The horse feels best, when you held the reins very lightly.  A well-schooled horse carries his head well on his own and only needs very small sensitive aids through the rein.  When the horse begins to trust man, and the hand holding the rein, then he becomes alive in his mouth and produces froth.” 


The article has a lot to quote and think about.  Also comments about ‘over-doing’.  Like, Ragnar Henriksson: “It is positive that people are interested in getting their horses to carry their head well.  However, I have seen that some horses that are trained a lot on a circle and are made to bend their necks on the lunge or under saddle, tend to loose their forward concentration and bring up their backs too much.  In such work, horses are usually kept on the rein, and that simply is very difficult for young horses when they are bent to the side on top of everything else, both physically and psychologically.  I think it is better to start a horse in a free position, to achieve willingness and acceleration first, before you start asking for a pretty carriage of the head.  I believe it does not take more time, if you achieve a good carriage in this way.  Allow the horse to carry his head in the way that is easy for him, let him work freely, run up slopes and ride in uneven land, even go on a trip.  A horse that is trained too much in collecting and restricting exercises will lose his sparkle, little by little.  We only have to look at the breeding horse shows.  There you see young horses that are trained freely, because people think first about maintaining the joy, the willingness and the softness.  These horses sparkle, and they are no less beautiful than horses that have been trained in an organized way for years.  Perhaps they are not as good in bending around corners in an oval track or a riding hall, but they have other advantages.”


It turns out that Ragnar Henriksson was influenced as a younger man a lot by the Icelandic book that Shrader wrote about horse training mentioned below: