As I navigate through the real and virtual horseworlds, I am finding that new ‘breeds’ of horsemen have been created since I first started riding. Whether it’s the changing times, or the advent of social media, any differences in aspect or approach to horses seems amplified from what I encountered in the past. Perhaps they existed all the time, but something has brought the differences to the forefront – but differences there definitely are. So, in a fun and very non-scientific way, let me introduce you to these types. Which one are you?
Four weeks ago I had a fall. It was not from the back of a horse, as one might expect. No, it was one of those stupid falls, that in hindsight you know could so easily have been avoided (we always feel stupid in hindsight). At the time it seemed a simple fall, but the result has been four weeks of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Unfortunately, it’s also been four weeks of petting horse faces, and otherwise not getting much chance to interact with them – until today!
I was only recently introduced to Jeremy Bentham. Perhaps because he was the author of a piece that criticized The Declaration of Independence, or that I avoided philosophy in college – but his name was never one I came across in my education. The quote I read (to be used in another post) led me to learn more about him, and to run across the quote that I am posting here and that inspired the title.
Happiness in animals seems to be a popular topic at the moment. There was a recent publication of a study that concluded that snorting was a sign of “positive emotions in horses”, which was just one of the many studies cited in a recent article in Popular Science that asks “Can we really ever know if animals are happy?” It is certainly important to anyone who cares for animals to consider whether or not they are happy. However, the claims that we do not yet possess the knowledge to understand the emotions of our animal companions always leads me to one question – can we ever really know if a human is happy?
“The horse is not a piece of sports equipment, but our partner. And all our actions should be to develop what the English so brilliantly call ‘horsemanship’.”
Hans Gunter Winkler
This month the world lost another great horseman when Hans Gunter Winkler died. The post below was written when I’d first discovered the story of Mr. Winkler and his mare Halla – and perhaps the most amazing jumping round in Olympic history. I thought it time to repost this so more people can watch that amazing ride, and understand what a true partnership with a horse means. You can read more about Hans and Halla in a tribute by The Horse magazine.
Original post: Recently someone posted, on Facebook, the video I have included at the bottom of this post. It is of Halla, a famous jumping mare whose rider was seriously injured at the Stockholm Olympics – yet she carried him around a clear round to win gold! Revisiting Halla’s story, and watching that ride, brought back memories of a ride where I too was injured, and relied on a special horse to get me through. Although not on the scale of what Halla and Hans accomplished, it is yet a powerful memory, and a personal lesson in how amazing horses really are.
A Facebook friend recently posed the question as to why so many people enjoy watching today’s competition, and don’t see the ugliness and the damage done by the training methods being used. Why do they not seek the beauty that many of us in the 50-plus age group grew up with? The answer is simply in the eye of the beholder. Sadly, it is not so simple for the horses in the middle of and subject to it.
Everything in my life always comes back to horses. It’s not just that they’ve been a passion, and it’s not just the physical presence of the little herd that lives in the back. It’s the lessons they’ve taught me that I apply to the rest of my life. I have long credit my leadership skills at work to the lessons I’ve learned from working with horses. It’s also my experiences in life that lead me to understand horses even better. I am living through one of those now.