Horses are herd animals and we have become a society primarily of people who have very little or no experience with a herd of anything, let alone horses. Most people need a lot of help just understanding the basic personality of horses. There has been a lot of research on how horses learn and how they remember things, etc., but often I find that previous to me, no one discussed this with my new student nor was the horse’s part in all this really even considered. Just sitting securely is not enough.
Too often, lessons avoid things like discussing and learning about the “feel” of the horse’s mouth in a rider’s hands, or say, how the rhythm in a rider’s seat can affect the gait. Basic knowledge of how a horse moves mechanically is so often never discussed beyond the basic gaits. I think it is important to understand why some things work and why some do not. Why some things work on some horses and on others they are just a disaster.I also believe all students should be taught the basic mechanics of bits, how bits should fit and why they work in a horse’s mouth. This leads to a discussion of horse mouths and then onto why teeth are important, and then on to a general discussion of basic, everyday equipment. Such things as why the basic aids work and why basic rein techniques are so valuable are often left un-taught. It’s not enough to just tell a student what to do; I think it’s crucial that they understand the “why” and “how” of what they’re doing so they’re not just “doing” – they’re learning!
Yes, I am on a soapbox here but, horse ownership is dwindling, registrations are down in nearly all breeds and horse show attendance is shrinking. I believe by teaching the art of horsemanship and not just telling a rider how to sit for a few laps around the ring, we can get and keep more people interested in horses and all that’s involved with them. What a wonderful thing for all of us, and for the horses that depend on us!
Horsemanship can be a life-long pursuit – it certainly has been for me! Next time you have a lesson, make time to ask "why" and "how". It will be the start of a wonderful conversation that I hope will last you a lifetime too! Talk to you next week, JD.