The Thinking Rider

While intelligence can be measured in many ways, we do know that humans have a much larger frontal cortex portion of the brain compared to horses. The frontal cortex is the “executive” center of the brain, the part that allows choice.  Simply put – Riders (humans) have a much greater ability to consider alternatives and make conscious choices compared to horses.

As a result of the rider’s cognitive superiority to the horse, the responsibility for making choices that lead to the horse’s emotional, mental and physical well being is placed square onto the shoulders of the rider.  Thinking is part of good leadership. Daily choices should consider the well being of the horse, not just the agenda of the rider.

A thinking rider becomes a trusted leader. A thinking rider is well informed, educated, pragmatic and practical. This rider knows that taking care of the horse’s well being is part of being successful. A healthy horse can simply do more and perform better. It is always in the rider’s best interest to balance the horse in body and mind and it feels just as good to the horse.

So, what does this Thinking Rider do on a daily basis that builds trust from the horse?

  • Works within realistic boundaries of the mind, by understanding the difference between the horse “being stretched” or being “thrown into panic”
  • Doesn’t push the horse into sink-or-swim situations but instead works on simple ingredients that build skills slowly and methodically
  • Pays attention to how the horse is coping with any given situation and adapts to make the job easier,  slower or somehow more manageable for the horse when fear begins to escalate
  • Realizes that to earn the leadership position means making choices; choices for which  the horse would equally vote
  • Considers that communication to the horse might have been misunderstood or unclear –  not just resisted
  • Pays close attention to the horse’s expression and body language to know if the work is appropriate
  • Understands that damaging the horse’s emotional or physical well-being during work, will result in a set-back for both horse and rider that makes the work take much longer over time.

The “Thinking Rider” takes complete responsibility for how the horse is doing in any given situation and for the horse’s skill development overall.  This rider is well aware of existing limitations but is always striving to bring out the very best in the horse.

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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

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