|" Adjustability, adjustability, adjustability. "|
Gadgets do a have a place--as Jimmy Wofford is fond of saying, every horse should be able to go in a plain snaffle, but you have to live through the present to prove him right in the long run. So if you need a giant bit to ride on a daily basis, you're doing it wrong, but if your horse takes more than a loose ring to run xc, well, welcome to reality. Been there.
|“What you can’t accomplish in a 30 minute ride is for tomorrow.”|
And to me, lunging aids are a whole different bailiwicks. The horse isn't balancing a rider or compensating for my hands (as much, one might hope). I think of side reins as normal training aids for normal horses, which is great if your horse is normal. (Mine... isn't.) This is where I expect to see the chambon or de gouge or pessoa system. I haven't used any of these aids, but this is their realm and I see their application. Frankly, I think lunging is a rather... pedestrian (? insipid?) way to spend time, but that's another post for another time and it certainly has it applications.
|"The rider has to advance as much as the horse. The rider should constantly be seeking education."|
|“There are 3 evasions of a horse: crookedness, inversion, and speed.”|
The other factor to consider here is that those of us who are adult ammies are hard-working, highly-motivated individuals with goals and ideas about how things should be. I realize I'm generalizing, but once mom and dad quit footing the bill, you either WANT IT REAL BAD or quit. Because horses are expensive and time consuming and frustrating and difficult and you're not here if you don't want it.
|“Speed is the enemy of impulsion.”|
But just because we WANT IT ALL NOW does not mean the horse is ready for that. "I have time" is the mantra of the dressage masters because horses are individuals. They're giant, fragile, vulnerable prey animals and asking them to submit and trust us and change their balance is hard and scary and not done in a day.
|“The horse is where his tail is, not where his head is.”|
More than that, none of us are perfect riders. When the resistance to an aid is such that a gadget seems called for, it is up to the rider and trainer to ask: 1) Is the horse physically capable of this at this point? 2) Does the horse have the training to understand what I'm asking? 3) Is the horse strong enough to do this even if he does understand it? 4) Am I asking the horse in a way that he can understand?
|"My horses are my friends, not my slaves." - Dr. Reiner Klimke|
Lest I sound innocent and preachy here: Courage was hardcore struggling going to the right this spring. Our transitions up and down were shit. Our canter was more of a sideways bolt. Heads were flung. Balance was not. Things were bad. I really, really, really wanted to put draw reins on and be like "DAMMIT MOFO YOU WILL OBEY". My trainer (the queen of having time) said no.
|“By perfecting the rider, we perfect the horse.”|
And instead of gadgeting up, we slowed down. We took things back to the walk. We did hundreds of transitions and rode under the rhythm and broke things down to the tiniest baby steps. We did body work and changed up his feed to get his much-abused racing body back to feeling good. We explained it to him every step of the way.
|"A horse "held in shape" by his rider is only posturing in a seemingly correct outline, usually for the benefit of the inexperienced observers." - Walter Zettl|
And the horse I have now is not the horse I had then. He trusts me now. He's game to try new things, because he knows I'm not going to ask for what he can't do. He's learning how to express discomfort without galloping sideways into the fence and I'm learning how to spot early warning signs so I don't let things go until he's already in pain.
It's a much stronger collaboration than it ever was before.
|“You can’t do anything without trust – the horse has to want to work for you.” CdK|
And I'm not saying I've never used draw reins. I'm certainly not an expert, but I've used them on two different horses on two different occasions, both times under the watchful eyes of a pro. One was retraining a massive Irish horse with an upside-down neck bigger than I am. The other was my own very heavy on the forehand, very weak behind, very open-throatlatched and very broke OTTB, Cuna. Each horse was a single-time-usage. Both horses were definitely old enough (10 & 17) and well-schooled enough that I wasn't introducing a new concept, but just reaffirming one they already knew.
|"Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful." - Xenophon|
Notes: 1) Unattributed quotes stolen from the $900 Facebook Pony's Charles de Kunffy write up. 2) I refer to all horses as he because my horse is a gelding and I dislike mares.