I believe we are in great danger of losing horsemanship as an "art" and it's becoming "just" a highly skilled craft. Here are some reasons I've come to this conclusion.
As an industry, we no longer talk about "soft hands". When I was a teenager, young riders were often made to ride with string for reins. If you pulled on the horse, the string broke. (This not only taught soft hands, it also taught you to ride with a secure seat.) Today, many horses are so intimidated by the bit that this exercise would be difficult but riders must be taught to "feel" the horse's mouth. A lack of "feel" is why many people don't understand when to release and when to ask for more contact.
Also, we are breeding the best performance horses ever (!) yet, people are more and more dependent on supplements and legal drugs to improve their performance. The catalogues today are full of calming and quieting supplements so riders are not encouraged to help their horse get through challenges by improving their own horsemanship. Why? Because every horse must conform to a mold. Horses are losing their individuality. What a shame!
Maybe I've just been around too long but all that seems to be "gold" is not the real thing. I want to make horsemen out of my riders, not mechanics. I think it's imperative that trainers help riders and their horses perform on and off the rail, with their horses going soft and truly in the bridle. It's a big goal and a tough one. Especially since often I take training horses that have problems with the bridle. A recent example is Joanne Salisbury's horse Ex. He's a very talented horse but came to me afraid of the bridle because he'd been overbitted and undereducated. He is not always perfect now but he can perform comfortably and confidently in the bridle. It's work like this that makes me proud to carry on the art of horsemanship! See you next week. JD