Relationship before Ribbons

I was recently at a festival for horses where we took some Nokota’s to spread the word, get exposure and show people what they were about, the history of the breed and what Nokota’s are good for (which is pretty much everything).  They had a big extravaganza where they were featuring a lot of Dressage riders, lots of big beautiful big movement horses, the three friends I was with and myself were kind of expecting to see some wonderful things! 

What we got was something totally different. We did see horses doing amazing things like slide stops, Spanish walks, Piaffe and Passage, aires above ground and otherwise but what we did not expect to see was the over abundant uncomfortably in the horses. The horses were tense and although willing they were not relaxed and the people riding them, even these “top level” big reward winning riders either didn’t have a clue or even more scary didn’t care how the horse was feeling in all this. 

I think it’s safe to say we were all a little shell shocked after the event. We left early and all seemed disappointed. 

Now I know myself only being 6 years back into horses I’m still kind of a newbie but my friends all have over 20 years of horsemanship under their belts and I was with my trainer…all three of those friends of mine have been thou the circuit and come back around to focus primarily on the relationship with the horse which is why we all study now under Jack Lieser, to fill in the blanks from all our prior and worldly training to make us more complete. 

Being the newbie, I was holding my tongue…until tonight. I just finished the third series of the Western Dressage clinic Jack Lieser held here in MN. I really had to focus on getting my horses head up, not letting him get under the bit and get the two ounces of feel between us to get the lightness and politeness. At no times did I have to over collect my horse to get the movements we did when we were floating together, at no times would we be okay with something we did when the horse wasn’t in the calm state of mind to accept it…that wasn’t good enough, we needed to get the movement in whatever we were doing along with the horses acceptance and complete relaxation. 

What I don’t understand is how isn’t this the norm? I found out in the past two days that I can feel when my horse is relaxed. I can feel when we are truly together. Is it possible the top level riders can’t distinguish that? If so, I can’t see how that’s possible. 

That leads me to wonder is it all about the ribbons or rewards? If that’s the case than shame on the people only focused on the reward and shame on the judges for allowing it. I mean it’s one thing for a person to cheat or take steroids harming themselves or their dignity in an event featuring them…professional sports shows that but to stress an animal getting a specific movement that replicates history….it doesn’t make sense to me. 

I guess I think of it like this. If the people in history that were originally doing dressage, which back in the day was fighting others on horseback, were doing this..these movements and tactics, when the horse was not prepared for it…they would have died. The horses had to be relaxed and cool and know their job in order to do it right so why has the relaxation and cohesion with the horse been erased out of the events all together? 

This makes no sense to me, and of course makes me once again want to do something to change the world in the hopes of bringing back common sense. 

My horse is my partner…not my barbie doll. Everything we do I want him to be comfortable with. I want him to be as willing as I am and that’s what I work for. I would never put a prize before my partner, it’s never worth it. I’m highly competitive but that price in my opinion is far too high to pay regardless of what I may get back.

Nothing is worth losing the relationship. I wonder why so many people don’t seem to be focused on that and it saddens me it seems so prevalent in the horse world. 

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One Response to Relationship before Ribbons

  1. cassieraetyler says:

    Great post 🙂 I find it quite sad to see the riders at competitions having to force their horses to get piaffe and Passage whereas if you have a good relationship with your horse they will offer the same movements willingly.

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