On horses and learning – Zettl quote

Blog post ideas have been flying at me faster than I have time to complete them.  The result is that I have many started, just waiting for me to give the final touches to complete them.  But, as recovery of my back accelerates, I’m getting back to work on a full schedule – at the same time, trying to do more with the horses.  Until I get into a rhythm again, it is difficult to have regular time for writing.  Still, I’m trying to keep the discipline of making regular posts, so today I offer a quote from Walter Zettl.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Zettl’s Dressage in Harmony.  It’s clearly written and easy to pick up for a few moments at a time.  The emphasis is definitely on respect and care for the horse.  This quote struck a particular chord with me.  Years ago, when I was training my homebred mare Dani, I was determined to make no “mistakes” with her.  I watched, in our early years, as many people passed us by, rapidly moving up the lower levels – but it was not terribly long before those same riders were stalled out, and Dani and I flew by in the level of training.  People watching in the early years couldn’t understand the seeming lack of progress we made … but equally scratched their heads as we later easily mastered movements like piaffe, extensions, pirouette, and tempi changes.  Appearances can certainly be deceiving, as Walter Zettl clearly articulates …

“If you visit the riding halls of the great masters who routinely produce brilliantly outstanding horses at the pinnacle of horsemanship, such as Reitinstitut von Neindorff in Karlsruhe, Germany, you will be overcome with the sense of calm and understanding on the part of horse and rider or handler.  You will not see a horse who appears to have difficulty learning any new movements, and you might think that no “learning” is going on – they are just practicing what they already know.  Perhaps you have visited the barn of a “hot-shot” new trainer where you can see horses pushed into new movements all the time.  You might sense that the obvious signs of “learning” are happening there – the horses were being challenged and taught, and the fussing and fighting are just because the horses had not yet “learned.”  “As soon as they figure this out, they will be great,” you are told, “Have you ever seen such movement?”

But return to those two places in two years.  Still nothing much is happening as the Masters’ – except that the horses that are now pleasantly exercising the Grand Prix were the very ones that were pleasantly exercising lower level movements earlier.  At the “hot-shot” barn you will seldom find the same horses even there!  They have developed physical problems, been sold off as “not really talented enough” or perhaps they are struggling still with the same basic problems.  Those few that do advance are seldom happy and proud, confident and relaxed.

The Master achieves his highly repeatable success by staying within the horse’s mental limits, and using the essential nature of the horse to learn through comfort and familiarity.”

Dressage in Harmony, Walter Zettl

Be good to your horses, and yourself … take the time to do it right and in harmony!


2 thoughts on “On horses and learning – Zettl quote

Leave a Reply to aHorseForElinor Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.