Tuesday, April 14, 2015

[link] Horses, Trust, and Patience

The blog Spellbound features a fascinating article on how horses that are worked "on the ground" are more relaxed when ridden under saddle than those which are not. It's actually a report and commentary on a study done in Germany on dressage horses. The scientists were actually studying something else and found this correlation fortuitously.

From this, the researchers concluded that, “Perhaps horses trained in ground work had more trust in their rider.”

We tend to think about riders trusting their horses and forget that this is a partnership. Skilled horse people understand that the horse must trust its rider as well. Once we stop thinking about horses as animate transportation machines or ego-appendages but sensitive, responsive creatures whose intelligence is different from ours but nonetheless exists, we open the door to a relationship of mutual respect. "Training" should not mean "instilling automatic responses through discipline." Perhaps we need a different term to get away from the old association. Training is establishing a relationship in which communication becomes clear and trust is established. It's learning to "talk horse" and "listen horse."

The blog concludes,

I’m glad to learn research revealed ground work is good for horses. Horses with a low heart rate are relaxed and relaxed horses perform better and live longer. In this day and age of people starting horses under saddle in under an hour and increasing monetary rewards for the “young horse dressage program“, everything seems to be done in a hurry. The entire horse culture seems to privilege “getting up there and riding your horse”. But as one of my favorite writers and accomplished horsewoman,Teresa Tsimmu Martino writes, “In today’s horse culture there are clinics that brag about starting a colt in a day, as if the quickness of it was the miracle. But old horse people know it takes years to create art. Horses as great masterpieces are not created in a day. An artist does not need to rush.” We need more scientific studies like this one to encourage us to slow down and take our time with our horses.

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