Below is a quote that I find somewhat unique in its approach to the subject. It is from Erik Herbermann’s A Horseman’s Notes. In it he addresses one of my favorite topics – that allowing the horse a voice, then listening to what he tells us, gives us the best path to becoming better horsemen and women. Enjoy.
“We could see the position and attitudes of the horses’ heads and necks as their natural ‘billboards’ with which they clearly advertise their assessment of the way things are going. When we allow only the horses to write on the billboard it remains a valid guideline for us. However, as soon as we start scribbling on the billboard ourselves, through any artificial placement of the head and neck, we run into falsity and shut down a horse’s say.
If we are sincere about following classical principles, we would be eager to let horses have their vote. Because if we do something inappropriate, we could then be genuinely delighted, instead of chagrined or irritated, when a horse points this out by going up against the bridle, or does not bend, or gets too light and comes behind the hand. After all, if we were to listen to these instructions from horses … no only would we be learning how to ride properly from true masters, the horses themselves, but it would be a wonderfully inexpensive lesson to boot, much cheaper than attending clinics! We can rely implicitly on this one thing: if we become adept at working with the laws of the horses’ nature, they will always write wonderful things on their billboards.” (p. 62)
So, the next time things aren’t going the way you expect, try taking a moment to read the “billboard” and see what message the horse is sending you. You might just learn something new about both of you.
Be good to your horses!