In yesterday’s post, I promised you a misunderstanding for another day.  Well, another day dawns, as they say.  Or used to say.

Let me start by telling you a little (true) story.  I have a friend who is a well-known natural horsemanship trainer.  She has dealt with thousands of troubled horses and thousands of riders in search of solutions.  I suspect that she feels as strongly about language and its meaning as I do, since she readily corrected me the other day, when I referred to submission.

We were talking about a horse that hadn’t yet figured out how to make the best choices for himself (on this we both agreed) but I said it would get better for him when he learned how to submit, and she said I shouldn’t say submit; I should say accept.

I didn’t question her on why she preferred the word accept to submit, but I suspect it has to do with preserving the sense of equality she believes is important between horses and people.

She didn’t question me on my preference either, but I did chose the word thoughtfully.  In my mind, acceptance wasn’t the issue.  I felt he had fully accepted the situation.  People wanted him to do something and he didn’t want to do it.  That was okay with him.  And until he submitted, nothing was going to change.

No matter how much we try to stay “on the same page,” the fact is that the words on that page will mean different things to different people.  My friend thinks submission has a negative connotation; I don’t.

In this, I’m in line with the dressage world, and no doubt influenced by it.  Beginning with the walk-trot test of Intro A, the collective marks include one for submission (and it’s considered important enough to have a coefficient of 2).  At Intro Level, submission is defined simply as “acceptance of steady contact, attention and confidence.”  I like the addition of the word “confidence” here, for it highlights one of the benefits of good training.

Speaking of which, at Training Level, submission is redefined as “attention and confidence, lightness and ease of movements, acceptance of the bridle, lightness of the forehand.”  By Second Level, “straightness” is added to the definition.  And by the time a horse is at the FEI level, submission is defined as “attention and confidence, harmony, lightness and ease of the movements, acceptance of the bridle and lightness of the forehand.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

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