How has riding and riding styles changed since you started riding.

I started riding many years ago and it was all very prim and proper, controlled by the Pony Club 'sergent major' usually called a Commisioner plus the British Horse Society. In the UK we ride what I believe people in the Americas call 'the English seat', but when I commenced riding the BHS dictated how people should ride. Even today most people have to have passed there BHS exams to get a job in the equine industry although college students are gaining quite a foothold too.

Attitudes about how you sit, your attitude to controlling your horse and the partnership between horse and rider have changed, I think for the better. More and more people like Mary Wanless, Micheal Peace and Heather Moffat who all feel that a different way of approaching and communicating with your horse is very important. A much more peaceful, non aggressive style is advocated with them all. Both Heather Moffat and Mary Wanless offering a different style of riding with emphasise on a better position for comfort and communication for the horse. Michael Peace puts great emphasis on a partnership, understanding and communicating as a horse would do with other herd members in a very non aggressive way via his Think Equss method.

I believe America and Canada also have those who represent these more understanding methods of communication - what do you think of this? Has riding and thinking changed for you over the years?

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Well I guess that I am of the complete opposite end of the stick. I did not learn any of the strict riding rules, because I did not take lessons when I started riding. This was way back in my kid years. There were no nearby stables that taught riding. We kids got our little wildie pony from a nearby Indian Reservation that was trying to downsize their wild horse bands. Anyway we got this pony that had been broke to ride and it was our job to get on it and ride....which we did. I am the only one of my siblings that stuck with the horses. I have learned a great deal through the years, mostly by trial and error, watching others, reading and doing. It has not slowed me down at all, I guess I was lucky enough to have some good horses throughout the years. You might say that in recent years with the new trainers that hold clinics, or write books or make dvds have given me some pointers too..I watch and read their stuff, pick out what I like and don't like and but don't stick with just one style of training or one trainers tecniques. Each horse is an individual, as is each person. I always try to listen to my horse and what his opinions are on the trail. I watch for body language and I think that we both make a good duo, regardless of what horse I am riding at the time. Good question Linda
Hmm, interesting question. Our finances have changed, which means I can ride a better quality horse, buy tack I want, etc. I still prefer western riding stuff. I tried an Aussie saddle, but not quite what I wanted. I recently bought a beartrap trail/rancher saddle. Gotta say it is my fave ever. I started with John Lyons as my mentor. That hasn't changed. I still think he is awesome. Detailed, easy to understand, kind. Then I found GaWani Ponyboy, when my Mom and stepdad gave me his wonderful, pure book, Horse Follow Closely. I also enjoy Chris Irwin, Mark Rashid, and Dennis Brouse. I still like the gentle way with horses, that hasn't changed.
Hi Linda: I grew up in the Pony Club also with a very military instructor. His name was Colonel Graffi. How military can you get. We did as we were told and there were not even outdoor arenas then so they put manure down on a track in the snow in the regular sand ring and you had your Sat. group lesson outside. I think then we told the horse what to do. Now with the newer understanding of listening to the horse we are kinder. I think there has been a lot of change for the better in the last 50 years. Gail.
My first experience of riding was back in the late '60s when I went on a YHA riding holiday in the Cotswolds in England. After that I was hooked, but living in London there was no way I could ride regularly, so I just spent my annual vacation pony-trekking (Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains, Dartmoor, Exmoor). Then I had this 30+ year gap, starting proper lessons only last year. Now I'm having to forget 'grip with your knees' and learn to relax and loosen up. It's taken me over a year to really understand about listening to your mount rather than just sitting on top and pretending to be the boss! The local school's ponies are nothing special yet they are each wonderfully individual and they teach me heaps. It's especially satisfying to get them to listen to me given that they tend to spend most of their time on automatic pilot! So, yes, I certainly notice a huge difference between the instruction I receive now as against the early 70s.
Certainly has been a change in riding instruction, and for the better too....I love that the emphasis in riding and working with horses has evolved towards communication in a non-threatening manner. It's so great to work with people who are thinkers as well as doers....the introduction of Centered Riding has been wonderful to many people, and intelligent and knowledgeable coaches, such Walter Zettl have done much to re-invent and re-introduce classical dressage to so many....I like the way our young people are being introduced to the sport of riding now.
Where I come from the "Just get on and ride" attitude was very prevalent and new horses were broken in not started and this way of doing things is still happening to some degree.. Most of my mates rode by "the seat of their pants" with little or no instruction but some of the best Stockmen I have worked with never had a lesson in their lives and Boy Oh Boy can they ride.. Later on in life (late 40's) I met someone who was a Pat Parelli devotee and to my surprize I realised that I had been using many of his methods without realising it.. Pat calls it Natural Horsemanship.. I reckon it's common sense... but he certainly has hit the nail on the head and after studying and using his methods with a horse that was extremely agressive I'm a fan.. I honestly don't think I could have got a handle on this horse without understanding his approach and I find I'm thinking more like a horse every day. I definitely prefer this gentler and smarter approach and I love the way that everything that is done on the ground is preparation for what will happen under saddle.. Just makes sense.

To me it is remarkable how much riding has changed.  When I was in my teen--early 60!--a horse was old if he was sixteen and huge if he was sixteen hands.   Now veterinary care and breeding has changed much of that.  And how I agree about Pony Club:  It was rigid and incredibly strict--not bad but sometimes too harsh for both horse and rider.  But, of course, in these days of "Princesses" the pendulum has swung too much the other way.  There are was too many riders and too few horsemen and horsewomen.

And yes, it is an irony that the gentlest must empathetic style of horse training is advocated by that group of riders that were the harshest and often the cruelist--the American cowboy.  With Natural Horsemanship things have really turned around.  I count myself as principally a dressage rider but I start all our green horses using Natural Horsemanship.  And we do a lot of the ground exercises while they are growing up--right from the time they are imprinted at birth.

Classical dressage--not Rollkur or anything related to it--when correctly done, absolutely keeps the horse's mental and physical well-being in mind.  But like many htings, there is also so much bad.  Horses are kicked forward, there heads held down by uncompromising hands.

I hope it's okay if I mention here that Amazon/Kindle has just released my novel, "Trophies, An Equestrian Romance."  In addition to what I hope is a good story, you will find some of this training talked about amongst the characters.  Here's my blog which tells you about it as well as what's going on at Windflower Farm:  Please tell me what you think here or on the "Trophies, An Equestrian Romance."  PS:  I'm sixty-three but I still feel myself to be a young rider.


Yes, I remember Pony Club here in the US--very strict, sometimes too strict.  But now the pendulum has swung too much the other way with an excess of entitled "princesses."  These days there are plenty of riders but fewer and fewer horsemen and horsewomen.  And, it seems, when the competition is keen, abuses creep in, "soring" of hooves and miserable weights

to show more action, and in dressage and show jumping, that miserable horse spirit and body crusher "Rollkur."  It is wonderful that cowboys, principally in the US and Australia have done much to change the harsh world of "horse breaking" with Natural Horsemanship.  It is so much more empathetic.  Here we start it right after imprinting with ground exercises.

I hope it's okay to mention here that Amazon/Kindle has just released my novel on show jumping, which in addition to what I hope is a good story, the characters discuss these matters.  Let me know if you like it.  You can contact me on "Trophies, An Equestrian Romance" Facebook page anytime.  I'd love to here your thoughts.  Ainslie (PS:  I'm 63 but still feel myself a young rider.


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