“Harmonious Partnerships in all Disciplines”

 

Recently, I heard a phrase that really stood out to me and has been running through my head for the past few weeks, “It is not the method that matters, it is how the method is applied.” I can’t think of a sport that phrase applies to more accurately than equestrianism. Within the equestrian world, there are dozens of disciplines, and within those disciplines there are hundreds, if not thousands, of methods of training. But each of those disciplines has a similar goal, and that is to partner up with your horse and achieve unity. Whether it’s a rancher and cutting horse working together to bring cows in, a show jumper working on getting around the course clear, a dressage rider and horse in training to flawlessly execute the movements, an endurance team getting through the last few miles, or a trick trainer teaching their horse to bow, they all are striving to bring the best out of their horse.

 

In trying to achieve greatness within these disciplines, there are a multitude of different methods that people use to try to get the best results out of their horses. Of course there are methods that I do not personally support, and some that I stand up against, like rollkur and other aggressive or abusive methods. Other than those methods though, I really believe that each method can be constructive and positive, if they are applied correctly, and with the horse’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately that is something I feel like a lot of people lose sight of when working with horses. They forget that they are working with a living, breathing, feeling being that has opinions and desires, who has to be willing and able to do what you are asking. They forget to put their horse’s best interests first, and get caught up in competition or get frustrated because their partner is unable to progress as fast as they want them to. This is where the “application” part of the phrase comes into play. You can be practicing the kindest and most gentle method around, yet if you are not willing to listen to your equine partner and address their limitations and needs, you can end up with a frustrated and unhappy horse.

 

In order to keep a harmonious and productive team, it is important to take the time to understand your horse: what gets them/keeps them interested, their strengths and weaknesses, how long they can concentrate for, what kind of praise makes them feel good, how quickly they learn new thing, etc. etc. Keeping all these things in mind and adjusting your method and training techniques to fit your horse’s needs is key to a successful relationship with your equine partner. There are many ways to get closer to your horse to better understand them. Personally, I believe that all people in all disciplines can benefit from working (or even just observing) their horse at liberty. Seeing how they interact with you, and with other horses is a great way to understand them on a deeper level. Working with them from the ground, whether at liberty or not, is a great way in general to connect with them, and allows you insight into their mental state as well as giving you a better understanding of how they move.

 

So whether you practice Parelli’s natural horsemanship, pattern barrels, or study the high school of dressage, just remember that it’s the way you train that determines the success of you and your horse. No matter what the discipline is, a horse treated with love, respect, and understanding will go farther and try harder than one treated with disregard, force, or aggression!

 

xxx Tara, ambassador of the Free riding neckropes team

May 10, 2016 — Marthe Mouthaan

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