The Iberian Experience

February 10, 2010

The Feet

Filed under: Uncategorized — iberianexperience @ 6:22 pm

Work with horses is a strange mix of physicality and philosophy. With every other sport objectives are relatively simple; score a goal, complete the race and the means to accomplishing these tasks are comparably straightforward; outscore the other team, or run faster. The elements are basic, but something else is even more simple; the fact that teammate and opponent alike are all… humans. It’s a strange component that most athletes take for granted, the mere fact that they share the same psyche as all the others involved.   

This is the greatest facet that separates equestrian sports apart from all others. With a little introspection you can quickly figure out what will motivate, encourage, inspire and restrict yourself and the others involved in a traditional game. But how is one supposed to unpack the inter-workings of a horse?   

This is where the philosophy comes in and there are probably as many training approaches as there are breeds of horses. All of them seeking to answer similar questions such as how on earth do you take a flight animal and accomplish such refined tasks as a half pass or a water jump?   

The Dressage Half Pass

 

  

The answer is found in the horse’s feet.  It’s tricky for sure. The horses feet are undoubtedly their greatest defense, and arguably their greatest asset.  So with advanced dressage movements set aside for now, how do I begin to harness this defense and cultivate it into desirable movements?  What now?   

The attention getting was progressing. In Time DoubleShot grew to watch me closely. When she did I rewarded her with some form of release. Simple things such as walking away from her or even redirecting my gaze and after a few weeks of this, I admit we got quite good!   

But now movement was introduced. Again, my trainer offered this piece of wisdom; “horses know power in the form of their feet, whoever can move the other’s feet, is the one in charge.” Applying this to my situation, I realized I needed to be the one moving her feet and not letting her move mine. For every time she moved purposely towards me and I stepped out of the way, I was communicating one thing; that she was in charge and could move me wherever she wanted.   

There are many different definitions out there of what good horsemanship is, but in a nutshell, I think it’s pretty basic: being able to move any part of your horse’s body, in any direction you choose, whenever you choose (my trainers brilliant definition).   A tall task indeed, but one that started with a give and take routine of me stepping towards her and she responding by yielding with her feet. This was often an awkward power struggle, but at times an interaction full of seamless grace and balance. Those moments were few and far between in the beginning, but they were just enough to feed the desperate hope that grew each time I felt success, each time I moved her feet.

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