Owning a Horse

What do you want with a horse? What is your dream or vision? More than likely it involves feelings of harmony and partnership whether your vision is one of speed, power, and sport, or one of slow, relaxing pleasure. What is your day-to-day reality like compared to your vision? You have might have found that your horse is less than cooperative with your plan, and this business of having a horse is more work than you anticipated!

Having a horse is very different from having a cat, dog, or other type of pet. The main difference lies in the fact that we expect to ride a horse or have the horse work for us in some capacity. When we add weight (our bodies, a cart, a saddle or a harness) into the equation, we inherently compromise the horse’s ability to move freely. Since the horse’s most natural need is motion and its main form of self-defense is flight, these restrictions to movement not only affect the horse’s body but also its mind.

When horses were a necessary part of daily life, proper horsemanship protected horses as an important investment. Maximizing a horse’s power and working life meant paying attention to its health, comfort, and the training process.

Most people today view horses as pets. People bring them into their lives for pleasure and recreation. With this transition of use, much of what was once known about proper care and training has been forgotten because it is perceived as unnecessary. But good horsemanship skills are vital even for basic horse ownership. Even though the reason for having a horse has changed, the bodies and minds of horses and riders have not changed much in thousands of years. What was once considered good horsemanship is still as important today as it was in 400 B.C.

Since horses have been domesticated for so long, we have many traditions regarding horses. But sometimes the passing on of traditions can be like a Chinese whisper or game of Telephone – with each generation, the original idea morphs into something new! Other traditions in horse training carry forward simply because they are a tradition, but the purpose behind it is no longer valid. For instance, almost all riders mount a horse on the left side. This tradition traces back to times of war when soldiers carried swords on their left side and had considerable difficulty mounting on the right side with the sword in their way. Horses actually benefit from being mounted on both sides.

Horsemanship and training methods risk falling into the realm of fashion, where certain “looks” replace healthy function. Personalities and opinions can replace facts. Results can easily become subjective instead of pragmatic. As a horse owner it is up to you to weed through the information – often freely offered by anyone and everyone who has ever had a horse – to determine what is useful and beneficial for you and your horse.

How do you even begin? Look for what horses have in common, no matter the style of riding or work. All horses share the same anatomy, so healthy function and a healthy body should be a common denominator for all riders. All horses share the same instincts. Those skills that offer a horse leadership, bonding and calm confidence work for all horse breeds and ages. Good training and good trainers should help the horse become calmer, more confident, happier and more beautiful. If the result of work is making the horse tense, anxious, sour, cranky, sore or lame then it is time for you to seek out more information about training and caring for your horse.

Serving the needs of the horse both in body and mind is what leads you to your dream of partnership, harmony or performance. By giving the horse all that it needs, you will get back much more of what you want.

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Equine Imbalance

...."Many problems (of the horse) can be caused by unbalanced patterns of tension in the body"........
....."Uneven tension will often result in uneven body use, difficulty carrying a saddle and rider, stiffness generally 'through the back' or the body as a whole, behavioural problems etc..... " Gavin Scofield D.O.
Founder of Equine Postural Training &
Official Osteopath for the British Endurance team

Acknowledgements

Photos Contributed by:
Jim McCleary - McCleary Photography
Christianne Gentile - True by Christianne
Sarah Wengernuk - Essence Photography

Quote Of The Day

While a western pleasure horse, a gaited American Saddlebred, a dressage horse and a Grand Prix jumper may seem poles apart, they are still horses, with the same anatomy, locomotion and basic horse nature
~Susan Harris