Sunday, 30 May 2010

Did we miss something?

Do you think we are getting to a point in horsemanship where there is not a lot left to say? We've been around the houses, tried this and tried that, and realised that the best thing to do is just get on and do it.

I had this idea that I'd get my two riding horses used to ponying each other, so that I could carry my tent, cooker and food on one, and ride the other. We could swap jobs and take turns, or at least they could. So I got the two horses out and tacked Sam up. He was a bit restless and twitchy so I rode him around a bit and then asked Sarah to put a rope on Splodge and hand it to me. Sam saw the rope and kind of squirmed away sideways like he'd seen some kind of a snake. 'What's with this horse' I thought to myself. One day he can do anything and the next day he's scared of a rope. Anyway, we carried on and he got the hang of it. Splodge had her ears back like she was saying, 'Piss off Sam, you can't lead me about'.

A couple of minutes later we'd all got the idea and Sam was going the best he's ever gone. We were all going together as easy as it could be. I love Sam!

You know the trouble with late twentieth/early twenty first century leisure horsemanship - we lack a job. It's a bit like western society - it's just got a bit too much time on its hands, and it thinks just that bit too much.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Do you know what - I'm wondering about horses and horsemanship.

I rode my horse out yesterday looking for our cows. We found eleven, so only nine missing. The thing is there are so many places they can hide. I walked out later and found another six. Tomorrow we have to get them in to start calving, so hope they all show up then.

Anyway, what I was going to say was this, my old horse Sam, he never really had a chance to be as good as he could have been, cos quite frankly I didn't know what I was doing. Do I know now? Nah, not really! But thank the good lord I do know a little more than I used to. Sam has a bit of a tendency to go a bit 'unbroke' sometimes. You know, you kind of have the feeling that you are sitting on a horse that has forgotten you are there, or maybe never even realised it in the first place. But yesterday I had him, right there. I rode like a demon and he was listening all the way.

So what is that thing that I can bring to the deal, that makes the difference. That elusive quality that for years I had no idea existed, and as life goes on, I find it slightly easier to come up with. That is horsemanship and I love it. And actually, if I was going to be really practical here, which I absolutely believe I should be, specifically what did I do different. Well, it was balance - but not in some 'sit like this' kind of way. It was me and the horse in balance as one thing. The feeling to me is of the horse almost being trapped there - I know that is a slightly dodgy concept but it's how it feels to me. Like the horse can't splurge out from under you. Like he is listening to every step. It feels good!

And when I watch good riders, or think back to watching riders I like, I can see they are doing that same thing. The horse is there, under them, physically, and mentally too! And then you put your horse away and think about that ride, and how tomorrow you are going to ride and try and get it right again.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Balance before Movement.

There have been many mile stones along the way, and the day I cottoned on to balance was an important one. If you get your horse in balance you've got him right there in the moment, ready to do whatever you want. I'm not saying he'll necessarily be able to do it, but he will be available to give it a try. And you will have done your part in making it as easy as possible for him.

And the final decider for me on this argument is that balance makes horses feel good. If you can show your horse that you understand this, and that you are not going to ask him to do stuff that he can't manage without losing his balance, then he quickly gains trust in you, and 'the relationship' changes.

I'm done with watching people ask their horses for more than they can correctly do, then watching the horse falling through the shoulder, or tipping on to the front end, in a desperate try to get the job done. Not good horsemanship from the human, I'd say. And then they bang on and on, round and round, thinking that if they do it enough times somehow the horse will find a way. Think about it! Do humans run before they can walk. Now I try to put things together for my horse in some kind of order, that makes sense from his point of view, truly I am convinced he sees me differently.

Here is a quote from Francois Baucher.

'What delights the expert horseman will experience in the progressive application of his art! His pupil at first rebellious will insensibly yield himself to his every wish; will adopt his character, and end by becoming the living personification of him. Take care, then, rider! If your horse is capricious, violent, fantastic, we will have the right to say that you yourself do not shine by the amenity of your disposition, and the propriety of your proceedings.'

And here is another pic of Martin - what a beast!