The aids are the means by which the rider communicates his or her will to the horse. Artificial aids, such as whips, spurs, long whips, and all types of special tack, can be very effective when properly used. But the secret to equitation lies int he use of the natural aids -- the seat, the hands, and the legs.
A video of Monty Roberts in attendance of a brutal beating of a young horse being broken to ride (and I mean broken), standing passively by while his film crews record, is making the rounds. Was he right in this situation or should he have stepped in to show a different way?
I avoid purchasing from major tack stores anymore, even from many local ones as they too carry very abusive items. I don't want to support that kind of thinking in the industry so I look to buying items used from acquaintances and if not from them then from other individuals who aren't in the business of retailing products to pain-train horses.
This week we explore the perils that can ambush us on our creative path. Because creativity is a spiritual issue, many of the perils are spiritual perils. In the essays, tasks and exercises of the week, we search out the toxic patterns we cling to that block our creative flow.
Just looking through the bit selection is enough to make you throw up. But they also offer ginger salve to "aid in maintaining a proper tail set," and in case you're a professional they sell it by the case...
Perhaps you've experienced this at some point as well. When I was still very new to horses and participating in my first shows and horse fairs and campouts... I never felt like I belonged, and I didn't! I wanted it to be about the horse, not about comparing ribbons and trophies. Not about sitting around the trailers, drinking beers and telling bad jokes. Not about rubbing elbows with people who'd "accomplished" things (titles, trophies, wealth). I wanted it to be about learning to be a better equestrian, to take a few steps further in the endless quest for knowledge with the horse.
This week finds us facing the internal blocks to creativity. It may be tempting to abandon ship at this point. DON'T! We will explore and acknowledge the emotional difficulties that beset us in the past as we made creative efforts. We will undertake healing the shame of past failures. We will gain in compassion as we re-parent the frightened artist child who years for creative accomplishment. We will learn tools to dismantle emotional blocks and support renewed risk.
All disciplines of riding can be improved through mental concentration. The ability to tune out distractions, tune out your personal thoughts, tune out that speeding ticket you got on the drive to the barn; and tune into your horse, what you're feeling through the reins, what your body is doing in the saddle, the timing of the aids, your horse's balance and gaits and... riding.
This week tackles another major creative block: time. You will explore the ways in which you have used your perception of time to preclude taking creative risks. You will identify immediate and practical changes you can make in your current life. You will excavate the early conditioning that may have encouraged you to settle for far less than you desire for your life.
If you were at one of my clinics the very first thing I would say to you would be: “All that we ask our horses to do for us is based on our human goals and desires. I will go further and suggest that many of those goals are at the expense of our horse’s safety and well being.”
This week we turn to the practice of right attitudes for creativity. The emphasis is on your receptive as well as active skills. The essays, exercises and tasks aim at excavating areas of genuine creative interest as you connect with your personal dreams.
It seems unnecessary to me to say that success in sport does not equal sound motivations, or actions... But it is necessary as people still go about under the illusion that it does.
Dressage riding is a dull and graceless pursuit when it does not primarily aim at satisfying the basic principles of good horsemanship.
This week you tackle a major creative block: money. You are asked to really look at your own ideas around Life, Money, and creative abundance. The essays will explore the ways in which your attitudes limit abundance and luxury in your current life. You will be introduced to counting, a block-busting tool for clarity and right use of funds. This week may feel... Volatile.
I've been a quiet fan of Manolo Mendez's for some time and always look forward to seeing him write about the art of dressage. You might enjoy his perspective on the health of your horse's topline and what it says about your riding & training.
That's what I'm going to start calling them. They aren't trainers, they aren't riders or partners or any other word used to describe someone who's willing to listen and converse with the horse. No. Instead they are people who, for whatever reason, choose to pick fights with the horse.
This week you are being asked to examine your pay-offs in remaining stuck. You will explore how you curtail your own possibilities by placing limits on the good you can receive. You will examine the cost of settling for appearing good instead of being authentic. You may find yourself thinking about radical changes, no longer ruling out your growth by making others the cause of your constriction.
This week may find you grappling with changing self-definition. The essays, tasks, and exercises are designed to catapult you into productive introspection and integration of new self awareness. This may be both very difficult and extremely exciting for you. Warning: Do not skip the tool of reading deprivation!
"In dressage, there's very little risk of nose-diving, at least actually diving into the dirt. So the noseband is used for other purposes. Well, the same purpose, of course, shutting the mouth, but for a different reason."
When I see images like this, regularly, I just shake my head. Then when the inevitable comments excuses follow I'm heart-broken because these horses don't seem to stand a chance of being ridden in a more empathetic manner.
"I had broken the contract. I had let personal feelings dictate my actions every time we encountered. Not once did I ever turn and simply ride off, without first giving chase. My father, bumbling and slow as I thought of him when it came to herding cattle, had almost corralled her and, except for the antics of a well meaning hunter, would have. She had fulfilled her part of the contract, She had, in spite of her wildness, given me a calf every year. In fact, as I learned the next day, She had renewed her end of it, for she had been pregnant. I, in return, had caused her death simply to show her who was boss. I sure enough showed her."
This week may find you dealing with unaccustomed bursts of energy and sharp peaks of anger, joy and grief. You are coming into your power as the illusory hold of your previously accepted limits is shaken. You will be asked to consciously experiment with spiritual openmindedness.
As for his reputation as a trainer, overall there's been mixed reviews online, largely complaints that he relies too heavily on his lunge whips to guide the horses during performances (he does a lot of liberty/circus/Cavalia type shows).
If you're unfamiliar with the article, I cannot recommend enough that you read it cover to cover to better understand the true rate of skeletal maturation in the horse. Also why it is a bad idea to start 2 year olds under saddle.
For those who are already familiar, this is an updated version of the old, original article. You could also print out a few copies to have on hand to share with other equestrians who question why you haven't "just started" your horse already.
If you push the people [horse], down deep inside, you really do not know which way they'll go or what they're really thinking. But if you can lead them and get them to follow you, then you have the skill everyone should have, which is to be a leader.
This week addresses self-definition as a major component of creative recovery. You may find yourself drawing new boundaries and staking out new territories as your personal needs, desires, and interests announce themselves. The essays and tools are aimed at moving you into your personal identity, a self-defined you.