Master – Pupil – Master: Its one continuous circle.

Recently while reading an article on classical dressage training I had one of those “oh that’s what they meant moments” which I would like to share as it is so relevant to riders. While I was working in Hong Kong last year I found it surprising to see how much time, patience and actual energy was given to young, inexperienced trainers by the more senior, experienced trainers, managers and vets. This mindset and attitude was so different to the culture of the western way I was used too. While talking to Cantonese trainers it seemed that the idea they were trying to bring across to me was that at all levels the understanding of learning was that it was a circle. A cyclic process rather than the linear approach we adopt in our western world. I never really understood the magnitude of that approach till I read the dressage article this week! I read this Japanese proverb in Hong Kong; it was the same one the dressage article started with:

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Standing Still

Does your horse stand still for you to get on or does it walk off pretending you don’t exist? Standing still is one of the most important lessons a horse should learn BEFORE you begin riding him. If your horse is walking off as you get your foot in the stirrup or just when your bum hits the saddle, guess who is in control…It’s certainly not you! On this one I always sound like a stuck record, if the horse doesn’t even give you enough respect to stand still while you are getting on you have a lot of work to do. Often I see people hoping after the horse with one foot in the stirrup or horses bouncing off before riders are settled and have their feet in the stirrups, the potential for accidents and injuries to the rider are immensely increased by this behaviour. It is unacceptable and needs to be retrained.

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Why do we ride?

This is a question I am sure every rider has asked themselves at some point in their riding career. Usually when lying face down in the dirt after an unplanned unceremonious dismount or when having to pay the feed bill!

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Supplements from Nature

Recently our few free range hens that frequent the stables were the cause of an interesting debate

in my yard. One of the horses was delighted to find a nest of some newly laid eggs in the corner of his stable and got stuck in to eating them, shells and all when I brought them in for supper. It didn’t worry me and actually had never occurred to me as a problem as I regularly supplement working or growing horses with a raw egg in their feed especially if the hens have been laying well and we have surplus. My friends were however quite horrified that I didn’t rush in and take the eggs away from the pony and here I quote the reason being something like this, “as he isn’t supposed to eat animal protein”. In fact I have often observed horses eating eggs and we had one little Shetland that used to regularly sneak into the chicken run, chase the hens off the nests and quickly try swallow all the evidence of his raid. The Shetland thief never enjoyed the shells though and would spit them out, spending hours licking up the spilt liquid and leaving proof of his unplanned additional feed. Free ranging and feral horses have been observed eating birds eggs and even chewing on carcasses and bones, it seems they will eat animal protein if and when they need it. Obviously in limited amounts and very rarely!

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Should I Geld Him?

The majority of folk seem to have this mystical idea about keeping a stallion. Recently I have seen many such people that think their horse “ has great breeding potential” and they “ want to let him do stud services”. However the sad fact is the majority of these owners are totally kidding themselves. Some don’t even know the breed of the horse, the one emphatically told me his horse’s breed was chestnut….. say no more! There are very few horses that are suitable to be kept as breeding stock, as the aim of breeding should always be to produce an animal that is superior to its dam and sire.

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