Accountability = Empathy
I felt compelled to write regarding an incident in the Dressage world. A rider was competing nationally, at the Intermediare I level. Horse and rider were clearly not prepared to compete at this level... However, I think enough negativity has been said regarding this particular rider. It is the reality of the world we live in. Greed, wealth, and desire for fame and ribbons has taken over. It seems that some changes have occurred since this ride. One is, no more live streaming. Does that protect the horse? No, it protects the abusive rider from getting insulted. This public video showed comments in all forms of evil, in a mad world. People were insulting the riders physical appearance, while others were defending her with " maybe she was having a bad day." There is no excuse, ever. We need to ensure our safety with such large animals, making sure they are obedient under saddle, but this horse was not placing anyone in danger, it was submissive to the barbaric riding method imposed.
I was giving a lesson recently to a new client. The rider was all out kicking her horse bluntly with a spur. I spoke up, "can you please not do that with your spur, your horse is going to get upset, he doesn't understand. " Then I asked her to remove the spurs and not wear them again, especially in my lesson. The horse obviously had no idea how to move away from the inside leg. This is not taught with harsh actions, it is taught through exercises that invite the stepping away, creating a bend through the ribcage. I was not invited to come back for additional lessons... I think of the horse often, and how some horse owners do not see these actions as abusive. I have also witnessed a trainer tying a horse's head to a truck hitch to teach it to yield to pressure. I stopped working at that barn, I did not want to be associated with those methods. In hindsight, I should have held the trainer accountable. Not starting a confrontation but simply, " Isn't there a better way, why are you submitting the horse to this method?" Horses need to be taught what is acceptable or not acceptable with their behavior, the same goes for trainers using barbaric methods or worse, telling a rider they are" awesome", when they are in need of basic education of riding. Basically, these instructors close their eyes and are taking the clients' money.
Horses should be relaxed yet focused on their schooling.
Horses will shut down mentally in order to endure situations. It is an amazing defense mechanism that humans have as well. Victims of domestic violence have to be retrained to " free their thoughts and become aware of feelings", it is a scary process to begin to feel. The eye of a shutdown horse is like a shark, unemotional. Once the horse is being re conditioned, their eye becomes softer, they develop character. This takes time, patience, and consistency. I have found the Ttouch to be most effective for awareness. Shutting down mind also results in shutting down body. Muscle tenseness is also a defense mechanism. Over time, these will have a result on the horses overall health and wellbeing. I love helping horses, it is my passion.
There is a lack of riding schools teaching a good foundation for strength and balance in the saddle as well as understanding how the horse physique works. Everyone wants to be a master these days. You can you tube anyone teaching or training, even if it's completely inappropriate training methods.
Be careful what you choose to study. Preserve always the beauty of the horse. Speak up about what concerns you, but do not join in on bashing. Hold yourself accountable to how you are riding, what you are pursuing and if you have any doubt about your trainers methods, ask why they believe that will help the horses potential.
I once attended a ride a test clinic, the educator is a well-known trainer and Judge. One rider entered the arena performing her third level Dressage test. The clinician immediately stopped the rider and asked who told her she was ready for that level, questioning why she felt she should be competing at an advanced level. That was so awesome, humbling for the rider and her trainer, but the instructor spoke for the horse. This Instructor held them accountable by standing up for the horse, not closing her eyes and taking their money. This is not turning your back on disaster; it is arming riders with education to better themselves and hopefully others through example or instruction. The more riders are properly educated, the more they will look for a deeper knowledge, choosing empathetic trainers, interested in gymnasticizing, not just awards.
Not everyone is a champion rider, or born a beautiful rider, you cannot buy your way with purchasing Grand Prix horses. Everyone must endure the path of knowledge, commitment and the work it takes to strive for perfect partnership with our horse.
"You might never reach the experience, knowledge, and fame that will make you a Master for the next generations, but you will be at your own level, a master in your horse's heart and that is all that matters."
" Jean Luc Cornille - Fundamental differences.