Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Heart of Horsemanship: Nurturing Confidence, Trust, and Joy in Equine Partnerships

In the world of equestrianism, where competitions and goals often take centre stage, it's easy to lose sight of what truly matters: the connection between horse and rider. A recent conversation with a fellow horse enthusiast sparked some reflections about the essence of real horsemanship – a journey marked by understanding, empathy, trust and mutual respect.
My friend, deeply entrenched in the competitive realm and a dedicated horse lover, voiced concerns about the challenges her equine companions faced – be it fear, reluctance, or unexpected obstacles disrupting their routines. As someone with a background in both competitive riding and natural horsemanship, I've come to realize a fundamental truth: while we humans, as good predators, are fixated on our goals and desired outcomes, horses, as prey animals, navigate a world of subtleties, where each step in the process means a lot and where only the present moment is real.
It's a journey, not a destination, for us and our equine partners. Every interaction and session is an opportunity for growth, understanding, and building trust. Yet, amidst our aspirations for success, we sometimes overlook the essence of partnership – the horse never signed up for our ambitions; it's our responsibility to guide them with patience, empathy, and a deep understanding of their nature and what truly matters to them.
The reasons why a horse resists a task or exhibits fear are irrelevant, it remains true for him. Instead, we must ask ourselves, "How can I support my horse through this?" True leadership isn't about dominance; it's about fostering an environment where the horse feels safe, valued, successful and understood.
The Dressage scale, with its foundation built on rhythm and relaxation, reminds us that true harmony stems from inner calmness and confidence. No ribbon or accolade can replace the joy of witnessing a horse thrive in its tasks, with confidence and exuberance.
When a horse is not happy or confident doing what is expected of him or her,.several things that can happen. The horse may resist, become fearful or worse, shut down. Eventually, they may go into a state of learned helplessness as a coping mechanism.
Every day brings new challenges and opportunities in the world of horsemanship. As caretakers of these majestic creatures, it's imperative to meet them where they are – emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Whether it's a day of triumph or adversity, we are the stewards of their well-being. Emotional pain is as significant as physical discomfort in the realm of horsemanship. Asking a horse to endure tasks that cause distress undermines the trust and bond we strive to nurture. It's a delicate balance – pushing boundaries while remaining attuned to their needs and emotional well-being. To quote the late dressage master Walter Zettl, "Take him to the limit, but never over the limit".
For me, the essence of horsemanship lies not in the pursuit of trophies or accolades, but in the nurturing of trust, confidence, and joy in our equine partnerships. I invite you to embark on a similar journey with humility, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of our beloved companions. After all, true success is measured not by victories in the show ring, those are only the icing on the cake, but by the happiness and contentment reflected in the eyes of our horses.
PS, Can you see the difference between the two photos? Distress and pain vs focus and confidence?

Because life should be spent doing more of what you love! 🎯🎯

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