Thursday, 14 January 2010

The History of Horsemanship - part one

'It is essential to appreciate that the rider is the leader of the equestrian partnership and, for better or worse, sets the physical and psychological scene - not the horse. The true horseman lives by the premise that nothing is ever the horses fault.'

I have been dipping in to a few old horsebooks recently and I am continually coming across this kind of stuff. This was written in 1980 (or at least, published then) by some German dressage geezer called Herbermann. The book has a whole section of really sound practical, helpful explanations and advice that is useful to even basic horsemen such as myself. To be honest it makes a lot of the fancy illustrated horse books published over the last twenty years or so look like magazine articles.

Because my wife is a very keen student of horsemanship and riding, I get to watch/read/hear an awful lot about very accomplished horsemanship. You might think that could only be a good thing, and I would have to agree, but it does have its downside - I often feel like I should give up now! But one thing I have realised, which is good, is that good horsemanship has been with us since the beginning of time. What may seem to me to be a major breakthrough and realisation in my horsemanship is, to some of these old guys, nothing more than common sense that they have been practising for years.

That got me to thinking about all these people who sell their own brands of horsemanship as though they have discovered something new. And that got me to thinking about what happened to Baucher when he published his 'nouvelle methode' in the 1830s. There was a huge backlash against it, and people were saying, 'there's nothing new here' and so on and so on. I'm not a great fan of anyone who pronounces 'my methods' as though they have come up with some revolutionary new idea, but as far as I can tell, Baucher, at that time, did come up with some pretty new stuff. I really like a lot of what he says, and I have found some of it pretty helpful in my horsemanship.

To be specific, I like the exercises to 'relax the jaw', and to get the 'flexions' which really help my horse, and even more importantly, I like how my understanding/interpretation of this has really helped me to understand how my hands and the reins work with the horse's mouth.

Ah, the mysteries slowly unfold, and all for why? I have no idea!

17 comments:

glenatron said...

One thing that we do have now is an unprecedented facility for communication, so although there is nothing new, the good stuff that people have always been doing here, or in the Great Basin or the Blue Mountains or wherever else has never been so available to everyone else. I think that means that we are now at a better place than we ever collectively have been to actually build on all this knowledge from these different streams. That's a pretty exciting opportunity.

Also, as a total aside, it's now two winters and I'm not sure that more than one or two of the eight horses ever got mentioned...

Kate said...

It is true that the basics are common sense, and common to all true horsemen and women, but sometimes I know I need to have my attention directed back to them again. Good idea to read some of the older books to find those gems.

Di said...

The more I learn about horsemanship, the more I realise how much more I need to learn. It's been a revelation to me over the last few years how close a relationship and communication one can have with a horse. I agree with your sentiments on Baucher, His "method" was very radical in his day and he revised his training with his second method. I have a high regard for Racinet and Philippe Karl who's training is very Baucher orientated.

Tom said...

Breakfast - yep, I guess you're right - i wonder how things would be going now, if we hadn't got the internet. And yes, I will do my next post about the eight horses.

Kate - I know I shouldn't care, but I do get a bee in my bonnet about people discovering stuff, then selling it as their own, only for me to find out someone 'discovered' it years ago.

Di - Yep, I love those guys too. Racinet just died, but left behind a really nice new book. One of my favourite things is that DVD where PK has the discussion with the German guy - I learnt a lot from that one.

June said...

Don't get me started on horsenality. For goodness sake, if your horse's personality isn't obvious to you you should sell it and buy a guinea pig.

Kate said...

I love that Humperdink book Tom (I never can remember his name!). He is so clear about the way you should set up your relationship with your horse, in order to explain how to ride great dressage. Good man.

Sometimes it blows my mind about how much there is to know, and how little of my life there is to fit it all in to. The more you know the less you know and all that. And then sometimes I do wonder what on earth its all about. But I guess that is true of pretty much everything in life other than eating and keeping vaguely clean.

June-I love that horsenology stuff, I want to write a new book outlining 'The grump' 'The greedy bastard', 'The spiteful one'; all those ones that never appear amongst 'The Noble one', 'The Genius' or whatever they all are. I think guinea pigs only have only personality type, which is little but like that of a pencil case.

June said...

Kate, I think you misunderstood me. Of course there are a huge range of personalities in horses. It is what makes them so interesting. There's probably a whole range in guinea pigs too but I've never had close dealings with guinea pigs!

However, I don't need to label my horse as a left brained introvert or a right brained extrovert or worry about him switching from one to the other to be able to train him. Guess I don't have a marketing manager and don't need to sell training packs or DVDs though.

Kate said...

No June, I don't think I misunderstood you-I was being a little tongue in cheek...I was slightly cynically referring to Klaus FH's horse phrenology, rather than horsenalities. Sorry for the confusion-and no, I also don't have a desire to chart which areas of his brain my horse is supposedly using.

Having said that, I actually do have a lot of time for KFH - Good facial hair and some pretty cool stuff with horses. I like him.

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the commercial 'packaging' of training methods though-I am not a fan of that. People who quietly do what they do well, with quality and integrity, are much more to my taste. They might not make so much money though.

Apologies for the typos in my last post (and probably in this one too!)

June said...

Ah, that makes much more sense now. Yes, I much prefer the less commercial types too.

I agree KFH is a pretty interesting horse person. He does do some cool stuff with horses. Not sure he is entirely sure he knows what it is he does though, or maybe it is just that he can't communicate it to people that well all the time.

Tom said...

I think it all comes down to this, or maybe it doesn't....

If you are an artist and you paint your pictures with one eye on what sells, is that true art. That's how I feel about horsemanship. To me horsemanship is an art.

Kathy Baker said...

Ah, music to my ears! Horsemanship IS art!

One of the things I have found key in developing my horses is the head twirling and lateral work. It is really amazing to me how we can affect the spine and suppleness of the horse in either a good or bad way.

Hey Tom I saw your picture on Facebook on Mark Rashid's FB page. I recently watched his DVD Finding Softness and was so grateful for it. I went out and rolled around a ball of energy between me and my horse while I was riding and was blown away with his sensitivity and responsiveness. A good reminder to look within for what what the horse is showing me. As I always I enjoy your blog postings!

glenatron said...

Of course, the artist's paintings didn't have to lead practical working lives after they sold from the gallery...

Tom said...

Kathy - I like that dvd too.
I've only been working with the flexions for a couple of years - I was wary of it for a while because I worried a bit I might disengage one part of my horse from another. But I am learning to take care of that too. I am finding it's quite involved and every day I learn a bit more. I'm working on this one horse right now that I have found very difficult - they're the ones where you learn stuff that you didn't even realise was there to learn.

Glenatron - ah good point. I guess the art of horsemanship is guided by what you want to use the horse for. So if you know you can sell good horses and so on. So could you say the art of painting is guided by needing to make a few quid too. We do all have to eat - I accept that. What I don't want to do in my life is go out there to my horses and my first thought to be, 'hey, I can make some money out of these'.

Tom said...

Apologies about the political nature of this discussion. Next time I see Trevor I'll get some counselling to help me deal with my moneyphobia.

glenatron said...

I wasn't even really thinking of the money, I was thinking that if you reach a point where you are able to tune in to horses and ride them with great subtlety you might still have to train a lot of the subtlety and wonder out of them in order for them to be able to get by with the average rider and have a good life as a working horse once they are sold. It's the question of compromise between what you want to see in a horse, what they are capable of and what their potential owner could handle.

Maria said...

I think that you are the first trainer I have come across who has talked like this, interesting. At the moment I am waiting for our horse Hazel to tell us what she knows, when we have done that we might think about moving on.

I like the comment about art and selling it, food for thought..

June said...

I think that's a very good point, Glenatron.

My favourite horse to ride out of the 30 or so we have here, is very tuned into my signals. He's the horse I'd always pick to escort a youngster or do any other job where I need a horse I can rely on. However, other people have called him their "wall of death" horse and I've seen him take off twice with more novicey people, but still quite quiet riders, on board. For me, he's my horse of a lifetime. I usually only have to think something and he does it. He'd need to learn to cope with louder signals if he were to be useful to the average leisure rider.