If you’re like me, every horse you’ve ever met has taught you something. Maybe it’s just a little something. Maybe it’s a lot. And maybe that next horse simply confirms that you’re doing things correctly.
At least for that moment in time.
Because it takes a lifetime to learn almost everything there is to know about horses. You’ll never know it all. And, if you’re like me, you’ll change your mind more than once along the way. Maybe someone will show you a new technique…or you’ll discover that the “way that always works” suddenly doesn’t work with that one horse…or your own skills become proficient enough that you realize it’s not the method that was wrong, but your own technique.
One of the critical skills of the horseman is to have an open mind. An open mind, along with patience and humility, will get you far.
How many of us have learned the lunging dogma that one must stand in the middle of the circle while lunging, as soon as the horse understands the lunging circle? Yet, if you watch Philippe Karl’s DVD Classical Dressage 1, The School of the Aids, he will tell you not to plant yourself in one place, because you will bore your horse…
Robert Dover will tell you to ride from half-halt to half-halt. Steffen Peters will tell you not to, but rather to ask your horse to carry himself. If those two Olympians are in complete disagreement about the application of the aids, what does that tell you?
It tells me that there is no one right way. Every horse is an individual and so is every rider and so is every trainer. One hopes that riders and trainers continue to learn and that their horses become educated, regardless of their methodology. And we hope that the final test of whether the way works is what the horse tells us. And that our eyes and our minds are open when he does.
In the meantime some of us poor mortals get very confused by all the conflicting advice from the “gods” and confuse their horses whilst trying to find the way that works for them!! Still, I’ll keep on reading (great bibliography btw), searching, watching, listening and hoping to catch a glimpse of horse nirvana sometime …… there are so many interesting points of view out there.
As Shakespeare said, “Aye, there’s the rub!” By the time we know enough to decide whether something is right for us or not, we’ve already spent years doing what we now believe is wrong! Still, the horses are the true “gods,” I think, in their ability to forgive us. And it’s important we forgive ourselves for what we may have done (or know we did) wrong with our horses. They live in the moment…and that’s what we need to try to do, too, while we apply what we’ve learned. You put it so well — read, search, watch, and listen.
Silke Juppenlatz said:
Every horse is different, just like every human is different.
What works with one doesn’t necessarily work with the other.
The one thing I tend to say (okay, preach) is to watch, watch, watch.
Learn their language, because they don’t understand ours.
My Paso taught me a lesson today. Not the one he wanted me to learn, but in the process he learned one or two as well.
There are tons of conflicting, alternate, downright idiotic sounding solutions to problems. It all depends on the horse. If one doesn’t work, I’ll try another. If someone has an idea and I’ve never tried it — I’ll try it. (Unless it involves force or pain.)
And the idea doesn’t have to come from a “Pro” either. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see what might work.
Hi Silke — Thanks for joining in the discussion! Great points you’ve made here. I especially appreciate the observation that good ideas can come from anywhere and that sometimes you just need “fresh eyes,” to see what’s going on and what might help a particular horse and rider. I often find that the most observant eyes are those of the amateur rider, because they are still looking at the horse’s own eyes which sometimes tell you more about his training than his legs or neck or back!
Wisdom from Jeremy Steinberg at the USDF symposium (paraphrased imperfectly): “Any time someone announces to me that THIS is their system, or puts a label on what their riding is, I think to myself ‘You’re going to lose.'”
That was just one of the many reasons I wanted to ride with him when given the chance – he looks at the horses as individuals and learns from each one. I tend to believe you’re wasting everyone’s time if you’re not learning something, because the horses are all certainly ready to teach us.
Hi Net — Thanks for your contribution to the discussion! I love that quote from Jeremy Steinberg (even if paraphrased imperfectly). I’m so delighted to hear that others share my thoughts about this, and everyone has their own way of saying it.
I like to think that I can learn something from everyone, even if that something is what I DON’T want to do.
I think I’ve told you that I can’t lunge my horses because it makes me sick. If I try to stand still in the middle of a circle, I’m nauseous and dizzy in two minutes flat! I don’t know how those people who stand in one spot do it…
Another great comment. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, I just never thought of it that way — that I am learning something even if that something is what I DON’T want to do. I love that.
Yes, you’ve told me that lunging makes you dizzy. If it makes you feel any better, Buck Brannaman never lunges. He thinks it’s dangerous (he probably doesn’t think it’s dangerous for him, but he probably thinks it’s dangerous for most of the rest of us!).