Tools without Understanding

Frequently I run into a student who has been following a horseman or woman, often many different ones at the same time. They study their system and methods and apply them at home. Nothing makes me happier than a student invested in their own education and taking initiative. The problem arises, however, when a broad picture solution given by the instructional video is applied without the student actually understanding the cause of the trouble they’re in.

Take for example, bending to a stop. The video says if your horse rushes, don’t pull back on two reins, bend them to a stop with one. The horse in the video looks relaxed and the exercise seems effective. The problem is the horse person making this video can’t see you or your horse.

Maybe your horse is rushing because you are squeezing with your legs; or sitting too far forward, in which case bending them to a stop doesn’t fix your positional issues and they will just become more confused- they are being chased and then blocked. Or maybe they’re totally out of balance and rushing because this worries them, in which case bending to a stop has the potential to easily put them on the forehand and cause more rushing. Maybe not if you do it well, but it takes a lot of practice and self control to do things slowly when your horse is fast.

Videos can be really helpful, but they can’t and shouldn’t replace regular instruction with someone who can see the root of the problem. If you’re not careful, the blanket application of the step by step program can add a problem for every one it proposes to fix.

Study equine behavior, classical equitation, learn to really ride – you can’t replace a quiet and effective seat with a million one rein stops. Sorry: it will never be as effective as learning to direct, read your horse, and absorb and effect a horses gaits. It takes more time, true, but it saves the horse a lot of worry and trouble.

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