For many years I never did what other people did. Whenever I was in barns people always came to watch me ride, I still haven't figured out why - maybe it was because I never fought with my horses. All my life I have ridden thoroughbreds off the racetrack, most of whom nobody else would take on as they were labelled "wild and crazy". Those wild and crazy horses taught me so much. I learned at a young age to listen to what the horse was trying to tell me - common sense. As a young girl I was taught by an Irish lady named Pamela Goodwin, who believed that the horse was always right, and if you had a problem with a horse, you should "eliminate physical cause first". Those good old beliefs have largely gone away in our modern world - as now instead of spending the time, many people start buying gadgets to aid in training. I have never used gadgets - the only thing I have ever used was a running martingale out on the trails. I learned to ride my horse in the field with dad's dairy cows, following British Pony club manuals, as my parents couldn't afford lessons until I was in my teens. My horse Lady, an Anglo/Arab, would do anything I wanted, and we rode all over the hills of Jamaica together. We had a relationship like best friends should, and I continue that trend with my horses to this day.
Many years later, I got introduced to "crank and Spank" riding, or opposition of the aids by some German folk in Ontario. Their horses were hard to ride and I had tons of pressure in the reins. This I was not used to and I soon stopped taking lessons with them. I was riding huge warmbloods and they seemed like blocks of wood to me after the Thoroughbreds I had grown up riding. Now, many years later, and hundreds of horses in between, I have discovered a lightness I had only dreamed possible, with the Classical Master Craig Stevens. I bought a huge Oldenburg from him, the horse is the size of a small apartment building, but guess what? He is so light and easy to ride - I can get piaffe without spurs, I barely use a whip on the shoulder. The classical stuff has opened up doors for me, and basically I have gone back to that relaxed, laid back way of riding I did when I was a kid - before all the lessons got in the way! There is no opposition of aids in Classical work, meaning that in modern riding, which is essentially Military - the legs cancel out the mistakes of the reins and reins cancel out the mistakes of the legs, and very often one rein is telling the horse to do one thing, and the legs are telling the horse to do something else - hence opposition and conflicting aids. As a rider years ago when I was short listed to ride Dressage
in the Pan Am games in 1990, I discovered that less was more - as at that time I was being taught by a Belgian lady living in Jamaica who rode the Classical style. It came naturally to me to let go of the horse - as the aids really are only how your body moves if you are in a state of complete relaxation so that you allow the horse's body to move yours! How simple. And let me tell you - it really works. My horses are lighter, softer and so lovely to ride, and I have no need for hock injections.They stay sound forever, as the tension that most horses have to work in - physical, emotional and mental - literally tears them apart - as a body worker I know about that! I have come to a place where I don't feel responsible to "make" a horse do anything, I ask. You become tuned in to a point where you can feel the stiffness in the horse, and instead of forcing them to do something that is obviously hard, you relax them into it instead. It's all about flow, harmony and being at peace with yourself and your horse. Our greatest challenge is to let go and relax, and wow watch that horse start to really move under you!!
The greatest challenge today is that we are all going too fast, but horses still need time!! Time to relax, time to eat, time to be groomed for an hour, and time to just be. And you know what? If you take the time, things go faster, as the horse is happy,less stressed and more able to perform. Our fast pace of life is not natural to a horse, for that matter, it's not natural to us, and it is responsible for the amount of lameness and sore horses we have around today. In olden times, the horses would plow a field 8 hours a day, carriage horses pulled passengers all day, but those horses lived longer. Why? They were fit, given time off, lots of basic food - not the highly processed "McDonalds for horses" pelletized feed you see today, and they were not kept in stalls, more outside witih other horses, so they had down time. Our modern farming techniques geared towards high yield, have stripped the food of nutrients, both for human and horse, hence we now have to supplement as the plants and land are not given the time to rest and grow properly, it's all accelerated with fertilizers. For this reason I do not feed any processed food to my horses, including beet pulp, as beet pulp is actually a laxative for horses. I feed only oats and barley - I have gone back a hundred years to what horses have been fed for centuries, and my horses are healthy, happy and sound. In my own diet, I don't eat processed foods, mostly organic and drink lots of water. I read ingredients and stay away from chemicals like MSG and Aspartame. When you become conscious of your own body intake, you become conscious of your animals food also, and I feed herbs to them for various things - down to herbal dewormers that I make myself. I still use the paste, but not as often as worms are becoming resistant to them. Common Sense needs to come back, as we make life way too complicated, and it has repercussions in all kinds of ways. So people, Chillax and have a great time with your horses! Come to Wit's End and I can teach you how to become the Calm, Confidant herd leader your horse wants you to be!