Nothing like spending a day on metal bleachers in the full sun and 100-degree weather to test your dedication to horsemanship! And yet we managed to come away from horse expo with new ideas and renewed inspiration along with our heatstroke and sunburns.
I can be inspiration and motivation, but the dedication and perspiration is up to you.” – Pat Parelli
Respond with relaxation
One of the ah-ha! moments of the weekend was when Jonathan Field talked about how he doesn’t want to desensitize a horse. He wants the horse to respond to the stimuli — to “react with relaxation,” not with tension or fear. This especially resonated with me, as I’ve been playing the Friendly Game with Rocky and looking at Rocky’s future with the question “how brave can I help you become?” I’ve been allowing the stimuli to go on longer than I used to, to give Rocky time to find the relaxation on his own. Bring the emotions up and then settle them down. Set up the puzzle and really, truly give Rocky time to solve it.
The point of bridleless riding
I overheard a woman ask someone in a horse training booth “What’s the point of this bridleless riding anyway? It’s not like you’re going to go out on the trail without a bridle. You’re not going to jump or do dressage without a bridle.”
Never mind for a moment that people do those things and more bridleless. What struck me was that the woman in the booth — not the trainer, but a person helping out while the trainer was away — said “I’m not sure” and “I know what you mean.”
I didn’t interject or interrupt (“Oh, I have some thoughts on that,a may I share them with you?”), but Scott and I exchanged a look of surprise that the woman in the booth didn’t have an answer handy. Unless she was simply shocked speechless, she could have smiled and explained that the bridleless riding really isn’t about the bridle or lack thereof.
It’s about developing the relationship to the point where your horse wants to be with you, where you have the communication in your body, where you don’t rely on leverage or mechanics to steer, and where you know that your horse is into dancing the patterns that you are asking for.
It’s about testing your horsemanship to see if you use the bridle as a communication system or as a pulley system. If you can ride bridleless and guide your horse and have the horse be a willing partner in your guidance, you have confirmation that you’ve reached a certain level of the relationship and are on the right track for further development. If you can’t, then the bridleless ride can help you see what else you need to improve in order to get there.
And that’s just what popped into my head in the first moment.
What’s really cool though is that the women were asking questions, and admitting they didn’t know. This shows me they are open to accepting that there is a purpose, and that they are willing to be vulnerable in that they could admit that they didn’t know something.