My all time hero, horseman Buck Brannaman (the real life character behind “the horse whisperer”), says that when we’re young we ride 90% physical and 10% mental, but as we get older we realize we’d be better off riding 90% mental and 10% physical.I mostly hang around young riders, the oldest being in their 30’s, and nearly all of them are European trained, meaning they have no real knowledge of, and very little interest in, the so called US based “horsemanship” movement. And among all those people I know and their horses, I see a massive amount of issues, sometimes downright conflict, falls, and a good deal of mutual fear.
Maybe it is because I myself am not a very skilled rider, that I chose, out of need will you say, to try the mostly mental approach. In other words, I won’t do something that I know for a fact is hazardous, and I absolutely do not mind taking weeks of preparation before I tackle even basic riding moves, such as using all three gaits. Most riders I know act like they feel their reputation is at stake, and they’ll be made fools of if they don’t lope their horse at every session. The prize they pay for that token of worth is often bumpy rides, some fastened heartbeat, and sometimes, falls. While most falls are without serious physical consequences, some are serious, and all do put a negative mark on the horse’s psyche, and taint the relationship they riders have with them.
Does trying not to fall makes me a sissy ? Well, if so, let it be. I’ll be the safe sissy slowly building trust and a healthy relationship with horses, while more audacious riders will have their loping minute of fame every time, and sometimes deal with troubled horses, for the long run. Don’t get me wrong, not all horses are troubled, and not all riders struggle with them. But overall I’d say in the practice of the hobby I see around myself, risks and issues are the norm, more than the exception. I feel it shouldn’t be this way.
I’m considering getting involved with a new horse. Not a purchase, but a partial rent, as it is very common here to do. Owners struggling with high boarding costs offer riders the access to their horse so any times a day, against a fixed fee. Such a deal is available at our stables, and I’ll be “applying” for it tomorrow night. For such deals to be successful both rider and horse need “mutual” approval, and the owner’s blessing, too. The horse I’m about to meet is a 6 yr old Spanish dark bay named Pagaré. He’s still is very green broke, therefore not an easy ride. I can feel some anxiety from his owner at the prospect of leasing him. Thankfully, I think my laid back and very progressive approach should allow me to win his trust over a few weeks. It’s not the kind of well broke horse you just hop on and take away with. Bonding will take time and effort, but I don’t mind either. The end result matters. I have no agenda, therefore no hurry. I’ll try to make pictures and will report on the “interview” tomorrow night. Wish me luck !
I look back at some videos I had made of my mare and I working together, either on the ground or in the saddle, and I am (positively) shocked at how *calm* the sessions are. Because I remember her forever speeding up and showing anxiety, but the images in those contradict that.