As an equine blogger I, and a bunch of other people, spew on and on with all that “horses being a partner” stuff.
I would like to bring up for your consideration the next logical part to that way of thinking. And more importantly if that next step isn’t feasible or logical, consider that it just might all be a bunch of bull.
Any thinking person, open to shifting sands, must be willing to acknowledge that at certain points in their life, their logic shifts and their way of thinking changes.
So what methods or belief we held as truth twenty years ago is something we’d never do today. We’ve evolved. Think of all the dubious things you’ve done with a horse twenty years ago and say that you would do it ALL today. For most of us (myself included) the answser is an unequivocal NO.
So today we are far more attentive to and wanting to “listen to the horse”. We preach of being a partner in the equine dance between horse and rider, blah blah blah.
But now what? What next?
Okay, so now we ride the horse. We work him day in and day out, trying to perfect ourselves and in turn, perfect the horses way of going.
We practice rhythm and our timing of the aids and the application of them. We do everything we can short of lighting candles, putting on Asian mood music, and praying to any entity who will listen in order we the Ying to better ride Yang.
We achieve equine nirvana and we begin to show. We advance quickly at first, and we’re able to place well too. If we’re lucky and we’ve spent enough time and money we start to show with the big boys.
Then one day things become a little harder. But we’re doing so well showing and we’re leading in points even if it’s just a small lead. We find ourselves in the position that one bad show with low test scores can be the difference between Yes and No. We have become serious and competitive.
So we push. We look for shortcuts. With a world watching (except maybe some FEI stewards because they can’t do a damn thing about it anyway) we MAKE things happen as opposed to the loftier mantra of allowing things to EVOLVE.
We have become that which we once loathed, though often we do not see it.
And often there’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve developed ourselves and our lives around showing and winning especially if we’re a trainer. Winning gives us prestige and prestige gives us money. And we need that money. We have to pay the farm rent or mortgage, pay the sky high prices and fees of showing and be able to (in lieu of spending our own money) convince someone else to either buy a horse for us to ride or allow us to ride their horse and to pay us for riding their horse. And we have to keep them convinced because at any time that person can wave buh bye and move on to the person who is doing the winning if we aren’t.
Everything depends on winning. EVERYTHING.
Pressure mounts and so does the pressure we put upon our horses. Some of us try and cheat a little when the horse starts coming up sore because coming up sore is just something that happens when you MAKE it happen instead of allowing things to EVOLVE.
People start to notice and begin to say things. Then some of them get mad at you and begin to say things on the internet. Global conversations begin with you as the topic and you find yourself being blamed for the demise of dressage as we know it and in some circles, the holocaust too. We become the subject of videos and of conversations about said videos.
We step up and defend ourselves yelling for anyone to hear that will listen stating how much we love our horse and how much education we have. Of course we love our horses because we speak nicely to them and feed them carrots and bananas when we’re not contorting them in bizarre, unrecognizable positions.
Our education with some of the top folks in the world has taught us that we are more knowing than others as to what the real deal is, what the realities of living in this world entails in the horse world. We give ourselves the excuses we need, we give those same excuses to the world and we speak of how much more we know than every one else.
We have become that which we once loathed.
It’s apparent to others that now we’ve lost our way. Somewhere, at some point, things went askew.
How do we keep that from happening?
Remember at the very beginning I asked what the next step was? Well this is the point in the equation of things that the question must be both asked and answered.
My answer: The horse must always be the driver. The horse must always lead the way.
Given todays show environment, is it even possible for the horse to lead the way?
I think maybe no, it isn’t possible all the time especially as we reach higher levels.
It is my belief that as soon as the showing becomes complicated and entwined as an integral part of life’s set up that at some point it is no longer possible for the horse to be the driver. When things develop to the Olympic or World levels its obvious that showing has become quite complicated and has become entwined as an integral part of our lifes set up. And then there’s the money. Always the money.
So I would ask, is there a point where the sport developed to preserve “training” has now become the very vehicle of its destruction?
At what point do we say “No”?
The answer is different to different people. I can afford to make my answer to completely listen to the horse and allow him to be the driver. I’m not currently showing or even driving towards some goal and time destination.
I have the luxury of my mantra being “I’ll do what evolves based up my frequency and intensity of rides and the horse wanting to and enjoying the training”.
Others are striving for some goal and that goal might be on a local, regional, national or global level.
The ones striving towards some goal are feeling the pressure. What will they do? What will we do?
In the end when we speak of being in harmony with our horses and of allowing the training to develop we can always talk the talk, but can we walk the walk?
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