Most of my posts relating to horses are in some way critical or unimpressed with other people. To counter this otherwise rather tedious approach, I’d like to share some methods/riders with you that I actually like. Mostly.
Things that wildfillysama likes: Smart, sensitive people working with horses in ways that biomechanically, psychologically, and humanely address the animals’ needs, talents and individuality.
Things that wildfillysama doesn’t like: Everything else, especially if it is financially or competitively motivated.
Primarily, I am interested in dressage, with inclinations towards the classical side rather than contemporary FEI standards. Philippe Karl demonstrates the methodologies with which I have the most sympathy.
Karl’s opposition to modern dressage stems from what he perceives to be a cult following of physically and psychologically damaging riding practices, often inflicted on extremely talented horses who are still able to “make do” and win medals due to their own skills, despite nothing but hinderence from the rider. His “School of Légèreté” heralds back to classical dressage practices. On his website, his philosophy is espoused as:
“The founding principle of the School of Légèreté is the absolute respect of the horse. In this concept, Légèreté (French: lightness) is not a declaration of intent of a poetic or esoteric nature, but a philosophy bringing together clear, effective and measurable equestrian concepts.
The philosophy of Légèreté excludes any use of force or coercive artificial aids (including side reins, draw reins, tightly closed nosebands etc.), but includes all types of horse and takes an interest in all equestrian disciplines. It provides an understandable and reliable training plan with clear principles, efficient methods and procedures that fully respect the nature of the horse. It thus allows any seriously motivated rider access to High School equitation, even with a perfectly ordinary horse.
The School of Légèreté takes its inspiration from the masters who have contributed to this equestrian philosophy: Xenophon, Fiaschi, La Broue, Pluvinel, La Guérinière, Dupaty de Clam, Hünersdorf, Freiherr von Sind, Baucher, Raabe, L’Hotte, Faverot de Kerbrech, Beudant, Oliveira etc. It is based on in-depth knowledge of the horse and is ready to re-analyse and improve itself with all types of progress in this respect (anatomy, physiology, locomotion, balance, psychology, ethology).
Lastly it has the aim of getting the best from any horse and fulfilling the rider through the constant search for efficiency via the minimum use of means.”
Having attended clinics with Karl, and witnessing the sheer relief on the horses’ faces when their riders began to apply his teachings, I am convinced that this kind of sensitive, flexible approach is most appropriate when teaching dressage.
When working with horses on the ground, I draw inspiration from a series of natural horsemanship figures. These include Pat Parelli (with some reservations) and Monty Roberts. I look for calm respect, as well as bodily and spatial awareness in a horse, and find that several training methods put forward by these popular trainers make this easier to accomplish. Monty Roberts’ “Join Up” and Parelli’s “Seven Games” are all useful tools when introducing yourself to a new horse and improving communication. A breakdown of these can be found here: http://www.wikihow.com/Do-the-Seven-Games-of-Parelli
These methods, when correctly applied and responsibly used, have made all the horses with whom I’ve worked safer, happier animals with no qualms about human contact or medical requirements, including trailering, vetting, farrier work etc. However, no one method has all the answers, and when not applied properly, can be just as damaging as a more outrightly cruel method.
Tips: Go to clinics, read all the literature you can get your hands on (new and old, doesn’t matter – just get a variety), speak to everyone (even if you really don’t like how they do things), and don’t expect to find one “miracle” method. Be prepared to adapt what you learn to suit individual horses, and for that not to work at all. Be prepared to stumble upon the right move when you least expect it.
Personally, I’m moving towards using no gear at all when riding. I’ve ridden bridleless a few times now, and I think I’m hooked… Dream job is still working at Cavalia. Wish me luck.