Does it sometimes get in the way of the horsemanship?
Here’s some of my own thoughts, what do you think?
Your horse doesn’t owe you anything, he never has.
He never owed you in the first place. A horse is incapable of owing us anything.
He never asked for this life, these expectations were placed upon him.
It is not up to you to decide that he now doesn’t owe you anything because you feel good about achieving something together, because a dressage judge made you feel validated.
The burden of debt in this relationship is heavy in the other direction.
It doesn’t matter how much you paid for him, how many matchy-matchy sets you bought him, how much you’ve forked out in vets bills or even how many tears you have shed over him.
A horse is a horse, he came into this world to be a half-ton bunny rabbit.
He doesn’t care whether he has designer parents or a fancy price tag. He cares about feeling safe and comfortable with his needs met. By some miracle, most of them also seek to cooperate with us once they trust our intentions.
He very graciously and generously goes along with our silly games and crazy ideas of ‘fun’ that serve him very little purpose, when in all honesty he would probably rather be in the field with his horsey friends eating grass.
Everyday I strive to make my debt to the horse right and be grateful for their cooperation (and understanding of their sometimes lack of cooperation).
And how can we do this?
*Seek knowledge – learn the theory,
*Try to be the best rider you can be – develop yourself and your independent seat,
*Ask reasonable questions of your horse – be clear and patient,
*Reward often, end the exercise, a rub, a soft word, doesn’t always have to be a cookie,
*Step away from the part of our ego that feels frustrated and angry, work on developing emotional control.
Take a step back, ask yourself how can I make this horse’s life better for him.
Some people are happy to keep their horses in a herd, never riding or training while some people have high sporting ambitions. A happy horse is never a ‘wasted’ horse. I have no judgement about the entire horse keeping spectrum as long as the horses’ physical/ emotional needs are met AND we remember that,
The horse owes us nothing, we owe him everything.
Canadian Paralympic dressage rider and trainer Bert Sheffield is the creator of the HeartHorse Dressage mentoring programme.