A couple of new tack catalogs arrived in the mail this week, big red letters on the cover indicating a SALE. I find myself flipping through the pages mindlessly because over the years I have all but memorized what the companies sell. Occasionally there is something new to look at. It just so happens I am on the hunt for a few things for the upcoming endurance season. This time however I couldn’t help but notice how there seemed to be more and more pages of gadgets and devices filling up the catalogs that claim to hold, tie, fix, shape, and probably scare horses into doing some of the things we ask of them.
Since the weather is absolutely foul in my neck of the woods, I have had to settle for simply watching from a distance as the horses romp and play in the pasture. Considering my observations along with the gadgets in the catalogs and I can’t help but wonder. Why on earth do we need all these gadgets?
When I watch the horses in the field, it becomes blatantly obvious to me that these fine creatures are more than capable of performing beautiful movements without all the gadgets. Even more amazing, they do it in ways that appear to be nonphysical and nonverbal ways. It’s more subtle, a look, a flick of an ear, a shift in weight. One horse’s subtle body language, an ounce of an expression, can ripple through the herd to take some type of action like run , look, go closer or just pay attention. I think of the situation in our little herd. Roman, perks up his head .. some noise or movement has drawn his attention away from grazing. His head goes up, his body goes more rigid or on alert, his ears forward . His whole body is charged with contained energy. The rest of the herd suddenly stops grazing and adopts his energy, posture.. ready to take whatever action.
Now imagine if we as horseman could somehow take that level of awareness and energy and harness it so that we as humans could communicate with our horses as horses communicate with each other.
I hate to make broad sweeping generalizations but it seems we as a society have somehow become pretty tuned out to most things. Think about it, how many of us go from work to the grocery store and while there, notice a gathering of people blocking the aisle way to chat, completely tuned out the fact that they may be in someone else’s way. It’s even worse nowadays with all the ipods and iphones and all the other gadgets on the markets today for people.
By becoming more aware, more focused on our surroundings, it would be truly amazing at the influence we might be able to have on the horse and to take it one step further, an influence that would actually make sense to him. How many of us could have avoided those hours spent trying to figure this round pen ground work thing out and standing in the middle of the round pen doing some kind of natural horsemanship Irish jig. We were just simply trying to go through the motions of what we learned at the clinic we attended or from the video we recently watched but we were missing the one key ingredient. We weren’t really tuned in….We weren’t clear on what it was we were asking of the horse and we probably didn’t really even know what we wanted to get out of this so called session. Meanwhile, the horse is out there trying to make sense of all these confused signals were sending that we expected him to understand when we didn’t’ even understand ourselves at the time.
In all seriousness , there are times when we do influence our horses and don’t even realize it. I think back to when I was showing and 3-day eventing in Pony Club. It never failed, my horse wouldn’t stand still to be mounted at these events. At home, he would stand like a statue. The fact that I was a ball of nerves may have had something to do with it although no one bothered to point that out at the time!. Ofcourse that had everything to do with it! We are influencing our horses all the time by our energy and emotions and the trick is to get that working for us instead of against us.
So, I could certainly call that 1-800 # and order that tiedown or chambon or some other gadget to get my horse to carry himself in a certain way or “frame” because that’s what trainer Joe down the road uses and his horses look nice. Using those devices might get the job done for a lot of people because horses will always try to find the comfort in most situations, and therefore yield to a given device out of fear or pain. Here’s the problem with that ….
For me, it’s not about how the horse looks on the outside, it’s about how the horse feels inside. I want to have a partnership with my horse and buying gadgets just doesn’t seem to fit into that equation. It’s kind of akin to sitting in the dentist’s chair as they are inserting 2’ needle into your gum and telling you to “just relax”. I yield for fear that if I don’t it might hurt worse. Not that different from a horse probably when he has training accoutrements hanging off of him.
In any good relationship, I think it’s a safe bet to say that it works best when you both want to be in said relationship.. correct? And then once that is established , doesn’t each party usually want to do things for the other willingly? And then, don’t good relationships grow to where each can tune into the other s thoughts so well that they can finish each other’s sentences or know what the other is going to do before they even do it? I would say that they are tuned in to each other. That is the sort of relationship I want to foster with my horses and by using gadgets and devices , it doesn’t fit.
So, I will choose to go without the tie downs, the chambons, and all those other devices designed to push, pull, strain, hold, etc. Instead I will strive to tap into a deeper level of awareness because the connection I am looking for goes well beyond physical contact or direct actions. I just hope my horse will be willing to continue to share his secrets.