Saturday, 20 December 2008

'Keeping the horse in the horse'

OK, inspired by El's question, and it's something I have been thinking about for some time, here are some thoughts on this subject.
Firstly, what does it mean? I'm genuinely not sure. I read the extract from Ross's book and he is obviously a good horseman - I've heard Harry talking about him and I know he rates him. But there is something I want to say - I have been holding back from saying it because in a way, it's quite arrogant. I expect to be severely mauled in cyberspace if this ever gets out there beyond the safety of this little blog, so it's truly for your eyes only. So here it is - I reckon that once you get to a the point of being a good horseperson, and I include everyone who contributes to this blog, and many many more, in that group, then taking the horse out of the horse isn't really on the agenda.
Up to that point you are serving your apprenticeship - you don't quite know how to be with the horses - you don't quite understand what they want from you - you are maybe a bit caught up in what you'd like them to be, rather than what they are, and so and so on. Taking the horse out of the horse is just a slogan really - I think it works better if you say 'don't go putting things into the horse from your own mind that simply just isn't the horse. But once you have served your apprenticeship, at least if it's the same one I served, then you know the deal, and you can start some serious work.
And that's where the fun begins. That's what I think anyway. But you can't, and this sounds terribly arrogant again, with horses I just don't think you can run before you can walk. You have to approach the horse and your work with utter honesty and sincerity, and with the pure motive of 'learning'. And I don't think you can be taught this stuff - you have to discover it within yourself - jeez, that sounds like a load of old Totnes shite I know, but it's only when I realise something about horsemanship, that now I realise, wow, I read that years ago, or I was told that years ago, but I had no idea what it meant.
Two days ago I was watching Damson being ridden in the school, and seeing her trying to get her mind around what I would call 'front to back balance'. As I watched I realised I had seen this before (at Harry's) and now, finally, I could see it in the horse - it was a nice moment for me. There is something really rewarding about learning horsemanship - it's humbling!

10 comments:

glenatron said...

I'm all about keeping the horse in the horse. Goodness only knows how much trouble he would cause if he got out...

I'm not sure about the idea that you only learn by finding something in yourself ( if it was really the case would you not be putting yourself out of a job somewhat? ) because I think you need to see what the thing you need to find looks like, and you need to have teachers who can help you learn where to look for it and to understand what it is.

It's another place where learning is fundamentally layered, though. When I watch someone working with a horse I see the part of what they are doing that I'm ready for and maybe seeing the same thing but I take something different away, in much the same way I do when I read a book like True Horsemanship Through Feel or yours. I'm not quite sure what my point was there, but I think maybe it's that it's something you can't learn by being told, but maybe that you can learn by being shown and guided. It's a kind of learning that has very little to do with words really, much like communicating with our horses.

June said...

Tom said "but it's only when I realise something about horsemanship, that now I realise, wow, I read that years ago, or I was told that years ago, but I had no idea what it meant."

I've had one of those experiences recently while playing around with the softness stuff with the polo ponies. I now understand what the saying "leg into hand" means. I'd heard it many times in various lessons but it never made sense to me. Why on earth would I want to put the brakes on and press the accelerator at the same time?

However, when asking for softness while moving forward I find I use hand to ask for softness and leg to ask the horse to continue to move forwards, hence it does feel like leg into hand, although the hand is quite elastic and quite soft. The part they always missed out though was leg into hand and RELEASE! And the release is the key part of it and what makes it make sense to the horse.

El from darkest Ireland. said...

"I reckon that once you get to a the point of being a good horseperson, and I include everyone who contributes to this blog, and many many more, in that group, then taking the horse out of the horse isn't really on the agenda."

Taking the horse out of the horse for me is not seeing life from my horses perspective then cos of this lack of insight, try to push him to do something which doesnt make sense to him. So im not treating him like a horse... like the other post about wanting him to walk through a gao he didnt want to go through... instead of listening and realising he needed a little help & patience, I tried for a minute or two to push him through it. I forgot I was dealing with a horse. Anyway........then I copped on and we sorted it out a better way :)

I guess the other interpretation is treating your horse like a robot the whole time with little regard for what he thinks about anything, so yes I suspect there are very few of those types of trainers on here :)

El from darkest Ireland. said...

translation: 'gao' = 'gap'

glenatron said...

You and your crazy Irish words...

tom909 said...

yes El, stop speaking Oirish on my english blog.

El from darkest Ireland. said...

I think mentally we're all Irish anyway....

June said...

Given that I'm Irish, although never lived there, I guess I have to accept that mentally I'm Irist too!

Going back to softness I'm coming to the conclusion that I can get softness easier by never having exactly the same pressure in both reins at the same time. Sometimes it is very subtle but pressure in both reins that is equal seems to equate to pulling and somehow stops the horse from softening as easily - need Dr Dave to explain that one I suspect.

Pressure in one rein and then the other seems to unlock the poll better. This is not the same as the flexing to the left and right that you see show jumpers do. The pressure differential can be tiny and you don't see sideways flexion, although it can feel a little like the horse softens on that side and then the other. The rein I use depends on the stance of the horse at that time, or for rein back, the leg I want to move.

Mary Wanless I think it was described riding like peeling the layers of an onion. Every time you get something sorted out with your riding there is something else to sort out underneath, so you get closer and closer to being a good rider but never perfect. I think that analogy probably applies equally to horse training. Every time you take one layer off there is another more subtle one underneath!

Shell said...

June .... I totally agree with what you said about the RELEASE part being missed out. No one mentioned that to me for years either or maybe I wasn't ready to hear it. Or maybe there is a lot of poor quality teaching out there. It's when we allow (release) that the horse makes the improvement, not when we take...
(Thank you to my friend Caroline Ireland for making that clear to me)

lolomai said...

How great, another horse blogg to keep me entertained these winter nights! Looking forward to coming up real soon and getting inside my horse.