A Gentle Man A Gentle Way

Allan Collett hails from the North Central region of Victoria in a small town called Alexandra, a beautiful part of the country from where he runs Allan Collett Horsemanship.

Allan always had a fascination for all things natural – and horsemanship has really been an extension of that. Apart from riding ponies around 12 years of age, his foray into horses was at the racetrack before school and on weekends. This led to training in his own right, but it was an unruly colt that led him to seek help.

A mutual friend introduced him to Wayne Anderson, who changed the way he saw his relationship and understanding of horses. Wayne exposed Allan to the ways of legendary horseman such as Tom & Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman and others of the influence. Allan starts horses specialising in colts, educates ‘problem horses’ and works with people from all disciplines, giving private lessons as well as conducting clinics. Allan still attends clinics to continue his own learning path which he knows is a lifelong journey.

Over the last few years Allan has worked with many Friesian horses including some of my own, as I am lucky enough to live nearby. It is because of my own positive experience with Allan and my horses that I am delighted he agreed to share some of his insights about the starting and training Friesian horses with us.

There is an emphasis on having the person look at the influence on the human/equine relationship as opposed to just looking at the horse as the problem.

– Allan Collett

How have you found Friesians that come to you for starting compare with other breeds in general?2024-05-08T17:43:01+10:00

I think that the Friesian breed definitely has its own characteristics. They tend to be more domesticated that other breeds and have a natural curiosity of the human being. I feel they are big on relationships with people and can really gel with a particular person, the same horse can be totally different to someone else. I know that can apply to other horses but its quite exaggerated with the Friesian. Its amazing how intuitive they are on your feelings and mood. Friesians tend to seek out interaction with the human, at home I have had a number of Friesians in training at once and if in a group they will come straight over to check things out when your around, or they will leave a herd to visit with you. In a riding situation they are more likely to ride away from other horses as they tend to have less herd bound issues. Once they are with you and have trust they really look for your guidance.

Some people believe larger heavier horses benefit from a later start than lighter breeds, what age do you feel is the best to start a young horse? And have you found any peculiarities with the Friesian breed in regard to starting?2024-05-08T18:05:17+10:00

I find that its always good to do some basic handling with all breeds, this starts with basic yielding. I’m also wary of over handling and spoiling the natural ways of the horse. Some things I would be looking at with say a weaner from 6 months on would be basic haltering, leading, yielding of the hind quarters. Once I have control of the horses feet through the lead rope I can start playing with feet and general desentisizing. This may include acceptance of a rug, ideally one with a surcingle, this is great preparation for a girth later on. Once of the biggest things I really like to see is a horse that can back up, this is excellent for teaching a horse to respect your space. There are many more things you can add as a horse heads towards starting under saddle but it all depends on your experience. So in regards to the original question, many horses especially the Warmbloods do take more time to not only physically mature but also mentally, but I have given many of these horse a basic start at 2-3 years of age. When I say basic its just carrying a saddle, accepting a bit, having a rider up above them and maybe just a little walk under saddle yielding the hind quarters, front quarters a little back up along of course with some quality groundwork. Sessions are only short, under half an hour, I have found that’s enough for them mentally.

I send them home for 8 months maybe a year then they can come back for a little more. This really sticks with these young horses and I find when they come back many months later its like I worked with them yesterday.

In regards to the Friesian and breeds that are more uphill in conformation they seem to be a little slower in developing their hind end, thus finding hind quarter yields a little more challenging. Backing up can seem to be a sticking point as well. The most notable thing with the Friesian is that they need more time to process a request or a feel that you present to them, so its really important that I take things slow and give them the time it takes. Of you try to hurry one through the moves they can get mentally upset and resort to self preservation using their strength against you.

Have you seen many ‘common issues’ with the various Friesians you have worked with?2024-05-08T19:27:54+10:00

Whether it’s starting or re-educating a Friesian, I do see the samme idiosyncrasies. So whether it be on the ground or under saddle if you don’t have softness and a willingness to yield to pressure there is no way you can out muscle 600 plus kgs of horse. Many of the problems I encounter with Fiesian are similar. Common ones that come to mind are pushiness on the ground, caused by the humans always yielding to the horse and not having back up in the horse. This becomes evident when the horse receives a fright and plows over or through the handler. Another is lack of softness and understanding to follow the feel presented by the human. As the Fiesian tendency is to push into pressure, you soon realise a troubled horse is almost uncontrollable, you may feel like your reins are tied to a rock. I would say that the Friesian is a little more dull compared to say a thoroughbred or an Arab. The dull horse is harder to get going but also harder to stop if they want to take off. So its critical that when working with this type of horse I make sure they are soft and supple. This may mean that you have to apply more pressure to get a response from your horse, I always offer a light feel to the horse first before slowly firming up.

In terms of general care, have you found many difference between Friesians and other breeds you take in for training?2024-05-08T19:28:39+10:00

In terms of general care a couple of things spring to mind. One, make sure your yards etc. are bullet proof. If there is a feed bin they can pull of the fence or weakness in your yards or a tie point they will expose it. They tend to get itchy easily and want to rub on anything.

Shade is critical as being black and quite solid they are prone to exposure to the sun.

More Friesians who come here have beautiful long tails but this can be a hindrance when backing up as they will stand on their tail tearing out hair. This is a great way to undo all your quality backing up work. If you don’t want to cut their tail look up how to tie a war knot.

Have you found some movements more difficult to establish compared with other breeds? For example does the Friesians naturally high head carriage or high knee action present problems when training long and low?2024-05-08T19:28:57+10:00

I do feel the Firesian struggles a little early in training with the hind quarter yield, backing up and in regards to long and low I don’t really have a problem with it. I think they get your lateral head and neck flexions working correctly and incorporate this into your lateral movements this goes a long way to having a nice head and neck set. Backing up in correct flexion also helps as it puts the horse onto the hind quarters and elevates the withers which intern helps the horse find a balanced posture. I also notice that once a horse starts to relax when riding out on longer quiet rides that the head comes down and the hind legs start swinging through.

Have you found any of the Friesian gaits easier or more difficult to establish than other breeds?2024-05-08T19:29:15+10:00

To be honest, I haven’t found any of the gaits more difficult in the Friesian breed as I’m not taking one to a high level of training. But that said, they are quite capable and if you have one run some hot laps of a round pen with a Firesian bolting under saddle you realise how athletic they can be.

In your experience, what would you say are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Friesian horse?2024-05-08T19:29:27+10:00

I feel that each breed of horse is more suited to different disciplines and in the case of the Friesian they can do most things. I wouldn’t necessarily say weakness but they would be less suited to say reining, cutting or any discipline that requires a quick nimble horse that can keep up with a cow, not to say its not possible. Any thing to do with high speed is not complementary to any of the heavier breeds.

What do you think are the most important things a rider should be thinking or doing when training their Friesian?2024-05-08T19:29:41+10:00

You can probably pick up common thread from reading my previous answers as to what the Friesian needs from the human. This really applies to any breed but I think in the case of the Friesian there are a few things to be aware of. Firstly, you need to build a high level of feel on the ground, you need to do things in a slow methodical fashion giving the horse plenty of time to soak on things. Be aware if you are being crowded but don’t over react and force the horse outside your bubble, do this in increments. Try not to betray the Firesians natural curiosity to be with you. Finally, be prepared to get some form of ‘try’ from your horse when asking for a movement, don’t settle for ‘nothing’ as the Friesian can build on this really quickly and before you know it you can’t do anything.

By |2024-05-09T07:58:16+10:00May 9, 2024|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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