Monday, February 14, 2011

The 9 Ethical Principles of the True Horseman

From Tug Of War: Classical Versus "Modern" Dressage by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann

I found the below at the conclusion of the book above and thought they were pretty important principles to consider and always keep in mind as we work with our horses. So, here, the 9 ethical principles of the true horseman:

1. Anyone involved with a horse takes over responsibility for this living creature entrusted to him.

2. The horse must be kept in a way that is in keeping with its natural living requirements.

3. Highest priority must be accorded to the physical as well as the psychological health of the horse, irrespective of the purpose for which it is used.

4. Man must respect every horse alike, regardless of its breed, age and sex and its use for breeding, for recreation or in sporting competition.

5. Knowledge of the history of the horse, its needs, and how to handle it are part of our historical-cultural heritage. This information must be cherished and safeguarded in order to be passed on to the next generations.

6. Contact and dealings with horses are character-building experiences and of valuable significance to the development of the human being - in particular, the young person. This aspect must always be respected and promoted.

7. The human who participates in equestrian sport with his horse must subject himself, as well his horse to training. The goal of any training is to bring about the best possible harmony between rider and horse.

8. The use of the horse in competition as well as in general riding, driving and vaulting must be geared toward the horse's ability, temperament and willingness to perform. Manipulating a horse's capacity to work by means of medication or other "horse-unfriendly" influences should be rejected by all and people engaged in such practices should be prosecuted.

9. The responsibility a human has for the horse entrusted to him includes the end of the horse's life. The human must always assume this responsibility and implement any decision in the best interest of the horse.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Competitive Trail

I wanted to share the video below of what constitutes to me a REAL trail class! Enjoy:

In my opinion, THIS is a true test. The horse is asked to do all the things it would find in the real world - boulders, logs, steep hills, water... isn't that what Trail is all about? These are ALL the things I have always expected of my horses out in the real world. The rails-on-the-ground competitive trail the AQHA has out there just is not an accurate test IMO, as it does not relate to reality whatsoever. I mean, how many times have I had to ask my horse to go over various rails (granted, laying in various directions and at differing heights...) and little flat wooden bridges, or open a ROPE gate? Never. Yet we have had to jump massive logs at a moment's notice, gallop through brush, swerving trees, or gallop down rutty roads where the footing was terrible and iffy (and invisible, thanks to long grass), bolt or slide down steep hills, clamber up impossible-looking cliffs, and tromp our way through rivers, streams, and thick sinking bogs. We've had to walk over wooden and concrete bridges that actually had WATER beneath them, and open gates that were NOT, I can assure you, made of rope. I suppose "to each their own" and maybe the modern version of Trail is okay by some people. I just find it absurd. On the other hand, I do recognise it to be a challenge to perform in itself and so give credit where it's due in that regard - I suppose it is sort of like agility for dogs (and even that is different , much more respectable IMO, and has more variance!). At least the horse has a job to do, just since we often rely upon our horses for practical purposes, I feel like we should maybe be competing in a more practical sense too, like our competitions should reflect what we REALLY do with our horses. HOWEVER, who am I to impose MY beliefs on others ;)

Enjoy the below, if you enjoy the AQHA version of Trail:

Let me say I DO respect and admire the fine nuances and intimate/subtle communication between horse and rider. That takes a LOT of work and refinement! BUT, it is almost (ALMOST) over-ridden by my severe dislike of the lame-looking jog and lope and the nose-to-the-ground fad upheld even at the World levels (and every level below). These horses are not using themselves correctly. Of course a horse has to have its head lowered so as to see the obstacles set in front of him, but what is demonstrated in the above video is to an extreme. Yes, I know what a horse should look like doing Trail and going over obstacles in real life, because I've ridden such horses in real life. My Quarab drops his nose literally to the ground when he is watching his feet in the bush, especially at high speeds. But that head comes up sometimes too!! It varies according to how he is using himself, the footing at hand, etc. It doesn't STAY on the ground, irregardless. The horse in the video has his nose dropped as soon as he enters the course, even BEFORE he has to go over obstacles, so the excuse "well, he has to be able to see the obstacles in front of him!" doesn't fly with me. That nose dropped so low is much too extreme for my taste. BUT, then again, to each their own. The only place I draw the line is if/when such a position becomes detrimental to the horse because the horse is not using its body efficiently, etc. *sigh*