When I only rode one or two horses regularly, it was easy for me to blame the horse for whatever pitfalls we came across. I could label them easily : bracey, quick, resistant, whatever.
Now I ride quite a few more than that regularly, and I sometimes have days where every horse experiences the same problems. Eight horses in a row are rushy, or eight in a row won’t bend to the right, or eight in a row feel crooked. It’s much harder to blame eight horses for the same problem one after the other, and there comes a time when I have to look at myself and say, what on earth am I doing to cause every horse I come across to have that problem?
Conversely, when I am having a good day, all my horses feel great.
I know it’s cliché to say the horse is a reflection of it’s rider, but it’s so true. They don’t just reflect our skill level, timing, and riding ability, but also what’s inside of us at each moment. Riders who hold their breath or have tightness, weakness, or crookedness in their own bodies find themselves riding tight, resistant horses who hold their breath. I can’t tell you how many horses I’ve ridden who rushed and I thought I was working on teaching them to slow down, until I realized I was tight in my lower back and wasn’t releasing it. Not to say that no horse I ride now rushes, but discovering this helped quite a bit.
People who display poor emotional control, are quick to get upset and then over-coddle later, or who are weak willed and nervous often produce very unstable horses. People who are not assertive, or who are overly agressive or dominant also produce either fearful or confrontational horses. People who like to fight teach their horses to look for a fight. It’s not the horse’s way to fight unless he has no other option.
The hardest part for riders to learn and for teachers to teach is emotional control and mental balance on the human’s part. Horses always reflect our pitfalls here, and it’s so important to learn to be the best person we can, not just for our horses, but for ourselves. Then our 4 legged reflections can show us something pleasing.
What do you have to offer a horse?
Meaningful work that stimulates body and mind?
Balance, mental and physical?
A healthy herd dynamic?
Good care, quality feed, and space to roam?
Attention to the details of his physical being, and his needs?
Love and scratches just aren’t enough to create the well balanced horse. In fact, an over abundance of just these two things has created some of the most unbalanced horses I know.
Consider your horse, his positive attributes and the ones that aren’t so nice, or make him hard to handle or ride. Which of these can you take responsibility for?
It doesn’t matter what trainer ruined him, what farrier was too rough, where he came from, the problems are now all yours. Blaming people and things of the past is no longer productive.
So what do you have to offer? And more importantly, what will you do to create the things mentioned above that every horse craves and deserves? Constant self improvement and improved awareness is essential for the horseman or woman who strives to provide these. Learning to see cause and effect – what is it you do that creates certain responses in your horses? Which are you interested in building on, and which are you willing to let go of to create better results?
The horse is your mirror,
It will never flatter you,
It reflects your temperament,
It also reflects your mood swings.
To be angry with your horse,
Is to be angry with yourself.