I remember the moment as clear as day. It is that powerful a memory in a brain that doesn’t hold onto many (I always say my brain does regular clear outs of information it deems unimportant).
I’m fourteen or fifteen and I’m riding a lesson horse in a ring. We’re jumping, or we’re trying to. It’s not going well. My instructor is screaming at me. Screaming. My horse is, looking back in reflection (hindsight is indeed 20/20), terrified. He has refused a jump, more than likely because he’s scared of it. My instructor is screaming this at me over and over. “Get it done!” and “Don’t let him get away with it.” Eventually, with much kicking and whipping, he carried his terrified self and mine over the jump. Our heart rates were both racing. We were both scared, bordering on traumatized. Both in a place where we are unable to think or be effective in any way.
Over the last twelve years as an Equine Sport Therapist, I’ve spent the better part of my time diving into what makes the best horse-human relationships tick and how to help horse women everywhere cultivate this kind of stunning connection with their horses. A connection based on trust, communication and relaxation, where the horses are balanced, healthy, willing and full of life, and the rider is intuitive, trusting and having an awesome time.
You might get glimpses of this garden of Eden in equine form, but does it stay? Can you maintain it?
Speaking from personal experience, there are countless factors involved in creating a horse-human partnership that is beautifully harmonious, a dance. My mare Diva and I fought for a good long while at the beginning of our relationship, with tiny glimpses of relaxation and harmony, and you know what? A lot of the time it sucked – I spent a whole lot of time questioning myself, my methods and what I was doing there in the first place. And then, with a whole lot of work and learning, we found our groove and remain besties in and out of the saddle to this day.
There is a certain mystique to it. There is a definite misunderstanding of the use and design of the equipment . It’s about Balance. Feel. Centeredness.
What is this thing that I am speaking of? It is the years long development of a True Bridle Horse in the Traditional Californio Style. It requires the horses to be started in the Bosal/ Hackamore then into the two-rein and finally straight up in the bridle. Of course, it is the bit that causes the greatest degree of concern to those who may not understand how it works and why. While I don’t profess to be an expert on the evolution and execution of this fine method of being with and working with horses, I am nonetheless a keen student and a fine appreciator the philosophy, intent, grace and connection that it represents.