Best of William Micklem - 9 - LOVE IS THE ANSWER


It is so easy at times to lose control slightly and ask too much of your horse...or possibly worst, to intentionally ask too much in a deliberate and continual way in the belief that 'stretching' the horse in this way will yield greater progress. Education is the key, but to develop the experience, feel, and sensitivity to judge with some accuracy how much a horse can be asked is not a short journey. However what a hugely rewarding destination it can be. The picture above suggests the attitude required to make this journey successfully.

JEAN PHILIPPE GIACOMINI

By chance I came across an interview with the Dressage trainer Jean Philippe Giacomini that I believe offers the fuel for this journey . He describes how as a young student in Nuno Oliveira's Classical Dressage School in Lisbon, he remembered an episode when the master stopped everybody in the class and dramatically asked why we all rode horses. After each student had fumbled some unsatisfactory answers, Nuno Olivereira stated: "I ride horses because I love them".

Jean Phillipe went on to say "To this day, that powerful affirmation remains vivid in my memory, particularly in a horse world that has increasingly become a 'straight business' environment. A horse loving his trainer learns the fastest and performs reliably. After all these years, this fact is undeniably clear to me and the only way I know to achieve that desirable success is to love the horse first, because what goes around comes around! Every rider has his or her own level of proficiency, ambition and every horse his own level of God given talent. This results in presentations that can vary greatly in technical quality, yet the most endearing and noticeable aspect of any enjoyable equestrian spectacle, at whatever level, is a look of happiness on BOTH faces of the rider and the horse!"

What a very appropriate thought for Valentines Day! Love is the answer with both horses and people and is a major driver for both greater empathy and effectiveness as a trainer and coach.

BETTINA DRUMMOND

Another student of Nuno Oliveira, for over 17 years, was Bettina Drummond. She relates how he use to say that the only judge he was concerned about was his horse. This is why he said to her, "When you get off your horse it is not the people who looked at you or the judge that are important. It is the horse that turns around and by his supple body and kind eye that is seeing the riding I gave it, as the one tribute I take as a student." A mutual admiration society I think and a rider in mental harmony with his horses.

Bettina also talks about Nuno Oliveira's use of the back. "Mr Oliveira's back was never braced. The one thing he said to me was 'never brace your back.' He would go into the motion of the horse and redirect it." 'He would go into the motion of the horse'...what a superb description of a rider in physical harmony with the horse.

It is not surprising that so many of his horses went so well. Bettina describes these times with these words. "In the moments he had the right feel, the joy radiated from him and the horses loved it." That love thing again...something worth striving for is it not? Happy Valentine's day...William

PS Yes I know this is a week early but it gives you a chance to arrange something special for someone you love.

NEXT TIME....a new blog...WE ARE PART OF SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL

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Comment by Denise Colebrooke on February 8, 2010 at 3:05pm
Dear William,
Your blog is very timely. A friend has just left after a visit. We reminisced about starting riding together as children and our old riding instructor Miss Groves. Her words were "a horses mouth is sacred and a gift to be earned". We were taught on the lunge with stirrups and it was a great day when you were given the reins to hold. Yes it always begins with love of the horse and a true partnership as you said shows the joy of both horse and rider at any level. Denise
Comment by William Micklem on February 8, 2010 at 10:39am
You had exposure to greatness...there are some upper level horses and trainers who are also good so let's not write off the whole pack...it is exciting that so many people now reject the huff and puff and gruff school of dressage riding...thank you for writing...William
Comment by splash on February 8, 2010 at 10:14am
I was fortunate enough to watch Nuno ride an Andulsian stallion of his at the Potomac Horse Center in 1980. I was a working pupil at the time and sadly had no real idea of who Nuno was. What I do remember is all of us taking turns to spell each other of chores so we each got a chance to sneak off and watch Nuno ride. I have photographs of him riding that day. He must have known we were watching, certainly as we took photo's, but he never acknowledged us. His focus was all on his horse. I know for a fact the horse hadn't been ridden in months, but there was absolutely no drama about the ride. It was a gentle, relaxed ride without so much as a twitch of that horse's tail. I think of it often when I watch currently upper level dressage horses jammed together so very tightly with wildly "expressive" tails. I know which way I prefer. Nuno was a true master! It's not at all hard for me to believe he was "all about the horse".
Comment by Jo on February 8, 2010 at 6:38am
I LOVE THIS BLOG!. I know it sounds corny but I have the scales of training handwritten pinned to my kitchen wall - I added my own quite a while ago - "First of all, love your horse" and adorned it with hearts and arrows! I do love my horses - their generosity of spirit is genuinely moving.

Horses are innately sensitive to mood and atmosphere - they know when happiness and love surround them - Happy Valentine's Day William - do you think carrot cake and candles is too much?
Comment by Cheryl on February 6, 2010 at 2:37pm
I forgot to mention how sweet the photo of the girl and her pony are! Love it.
Comment by Jackie Cochran on February 6, 2010 at 2:11pm
Thank you for mentioning that Oliveira did not brace his back. Along with Jean Luc's stuff it gives me new (for me) methods to explore and experiment with, once the ground dries out, and it stops snowing/raining/sleeting every three days.
My love for the horses I ride inspires me to be as humane as I can when I ride them. In return they forgive me my many, many faults, so long as they know I am working hard to improve myself.
Comment by Elizabeth Gormley on February 5, 2010 at 11:22pm
It is refreshing to read about this often forgotten equitation goal -positive motivation-from a riding coach. Positive motivation for riding in people can protect horses against cruelty. Positive motivation in horses from use of humane training styles markedly increases the reliability of the horses response to training. Consistent performances in my non expert opinion come from an unstressed reliable horse. "remember we do this for fun"
Comment by Jennifer Lamm on February 5, 2010 at 8:29pm
Thank you for posting this, I got alot out of it.... I have horses late in life for the first time..... I don't always know what to do with them.... people ask me, what do you do with your horses, do you ride them? I say, No, not yet, but I will.... and all I do now is see if I can get them to love me... to be comfortable around me, to CHOOSE to stand with me... to bend and be supple.. to drop, roll, yaw and drop their heads..... I have a really shy horse who doesn't like anyone, but he comes right over and stands with me and is so happy when we are together.. I find it fascinating..... :)
Comment by Cheryl on February 5, 2010 at 1:16pm
Thank you William sharing your insight with the rest of us. Much appreciated.
Cheryl
Comment by William Micklem on February 5, 2010 at 12:43pm
Thank you so much Cheryi...this wonderful quote completes my blog...William

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