I recently read a great blog post that asked “are you a rider or a parasite? ” by Cheryl L. Eriksen (it’s an awesome article click the name to read) And this really got me thinking of all I have seen and done in my life with horses.
I think in many ways we all strive to be a fantastic rider. We all wanna be Charlotte Dujardin riding Valegro finishing an amazing grand prix or William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero winning the Rolex. And it’s here, at this point, that we always seem to run into problems.
Unlike horses we have goals that go beyond getting food, good companionship and staying warm and dry. We want great accomplishments, and ribbons, and trophies. And sadly we will do some pretty horrific things to achieve them and many times not even realizing how horrible they are for the horse.
Like Cheryl I have witnessed some pretty sad things in my time that I was to scared to voice my opinion on. Thankfully I am older now and honestly don’t care how people perceive me as long as I’m happy with myself, and I now have the courage to step up and say something when I see something crazy going on!
I have also been that person who has used contraptions and “see-sawing” horses mouths to get perfect head sets and a “pretty picture” because thats what I thought was needed and what I was told to do. I admit I have done things that I am not proud of, especially since I now know how negatively it impacts a horse, though I was ignorant at the time.
It took years for me to understand that, that final picture is even more years of training and not just using brute strength to teach a horse where to hold itself. That true engagement and being “on the bit” and the over all balanced picture is so much more then it looks like. Its a symphony of signals and muscle engagements working together. Strength and relaxation. Confidence and joy. And of course for those eventing lovers a healthy dose of adrenaline I think both horse and rider to complete the course.
I think every good rider and trainer goes through a “parasite” phase because that is what is usually readily taught because sadly it usually brings about quick results and easy ribbons. But those good riders and trainers start their journey to greatness when they realize that using those other methods, whether they be using equipment like draw reins or brute strength to hold a horse or some combination there of, don’t truly promote harmony and a good lasting partnership with a horse.
For a true partnership with horses I really believe that learning has to go both ways, from rider to horse and horse to rider. Every horse I have ever ridden has taught me something and I (hope) have taught them something in return. Learning to be a great rider is a constant struggle but so worth it in the end!
(If the hyperlink doesn’t work for you here’s the web address to the article http://www.peacehorse.net/peace-horse-blog/are-you-a-rider-or-a-parasite)