Thursday, 22 October 2009

Could horsemanship be simpler than we think?

I'm no trained rider - that's for sure! Most of what I know I've worked out as I go. Over the years I've heard so much about how to ride though. Loads of phrases like 'on the bit, 'a good seat', 'on the forehand', 'outside rein inside leg (or it might be the other way round, I'm not sure)', 'take up a contact', 'drive the horse forward'. I have no idea what all this stuff means - I mean that, I really don't, and what's more, I don't want to know either.

I've watched a few people ride who I thought looked pretty comfortable. I'd like to ride like they do really. And I've learnt quite a bit about how it is mentally and physically best for the horse if he goes in a certain way. I've worked out that you can pretty soon trash horses if you don't look after them and you ride them wrong. I've taken that on board.

I was wondering if I pitched up on a remote island, and there were some horses there, untouched horses, and I'd never seen a horse before, how would I get along with them. This is quite a big island, by the way. Big enough for me to have a bit of a farming operation going, so over the years I build up my herd of cattle and my flock of sheep. I eventually get round to taming one or two of the horses and it's not long before I work out that that bit of curved back there just behind the withers looks about right to sit on. I also work out that for control and steering purposes I need something on the horses head, so I make a bridle (I guess I'd start with a bitless, so that's the first thing - I'd miss out on all the communication I get with the horses' mouth).

So there I go, riding my horse all over the place, getting the jobs done, rounding up the animals, stopping and starting, twisting and turning, and working out the best way for me and my horse to get along. But this time I wouldn't have all the helpful information that I have picked up along the way in the real world. I wouldn't know that I needed to spend twenty years working on my seat, or that I needed to study the great masters to learn the art of riding. I might just work out that it's best not to fall off too much though, and that things are easier if I have a bit of balance between me and the horse when I go for a turn. I'd probably work out that that balance I feel in the turn is pretty nice to feel in most of what I do too, and I'd probably work out that that balance, when I find it, can only really come through for me and the horse when I relax.

I do sometimes wonder if we have maybe made it all a bit more complicated than it is.