I believe the term “ignorance is bliss”, needs a little reworking. More along the lines of “ignorance is bliss, if your bliss is an aggravating, dangerous, absolute catastrophe”. If only us horse people had an abundant knowledge source to save us from this tragedy! So that we may learn how to be aware handlers and use proactive horsemanship! Problem is there is an overwhelming abundance of opinions out there in the world and a “not so obvious” approach to sort out all the right from the wrong.
Since I have started my horse journey I have had people tell me a hundred and one (exaggerating of course) ways to lead a horse, seen my fair share of horse trailer loading tricks and stunts, and have experienced a whole lot of speeches, videos, books, lessons, clinics on how to “ride a horse”. Its absolute chaos when you think of it! So why hasn’t the horse community simply come up the all in one how to do everything involving a horse? I believe its because there is no one right way to care, work, train, ride a horse. Especially with all the different disciplines out there today! I believe though that there ARE really wrong ways of interacting with horses. Here is my breakdown.
With anything we do in life, there seems to be a wrong and right choice, but a lot of times it’s not so black and white. We have this thing called “being human”, and even when we know something is wrong, we can choose to do it anyway! Morals and common sense are our only saving grace at the end of the day, or as I like to say AWARENESS! We have to learn to be aware before we can indulge ourselves in true horsemanship and honest with ourselves before we can learn how to apply it.
When I get out and about, I usually end up observing someone who is going about their equine routine. Whether on the ground or under saddle, everyone can use some adjusting, some more than others. When i’m looking for “the aware ones” there are two things I look at, 1. the horse’s overall content, relaxation in their entire body, willingness and correct muscle development (certain muscling shows a horse that’s been pushed to far to fast or forced into a position if you know what to look for!). 2nd I look at the rider or handler – their seat, hands, use and effectiveness of aids, and overall fluidity. A handler has a relaxed horse, patient and attentive, they are subtle when working with the horse and direct when they need to educate the horse.
So how do the people go from ignorance to aware? It’s not through some step by step planned out program, so cross that right off the list! Though some of these “programs” do have bits and pieces correct, but they’re not for every horse. Learn from someone else who is aware in any way – lesson, clinics, videos, books. Have an open mind, and be extremely observant. Don’t be afraid of trial and error, you can keep yourself in check by having a “conversation” with your horse (they are the best teachers). If they relax, snort, lick&chew, consistently blink, lower their head or my personal favorite have floppy ears, your on the right track! In most cases any kind of rushing, rigid, kicking, biting, bucking, pushy, tense, wide eyed, high headed, horse is telling you something is not working. THIS WORKS BOTH WAYS under saddle and on the ground – think of a horse like a huge puzzle, you can’t have “most” of the pieces filled in and go “yea that’s good enough”, without the rest you will never have a “nice whole finished picture”. Some get by until they want to advance or until their horse tries to tell them that what they have been doing all along doesn’t really work.
Lesson for this time is, constantly be trying to improve, even if it’s on little things – riding can always be lighter, your aids can always be more subtle, your horse can only keep learning positively if you are too. Rethink your tools and methods – just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. DO NOT WING IT – trial and error is A PLAN – you have to be specific in knowing what your trying to achieve. Stay focused, you get to learn from your mistakes, the ones who do the best are the ones who never stop trying to learn!
Til next time!