Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Riding - Part 2.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. ~Nelson Mandela

Exactly one and a half years ago I wrote a blog entry about my feelings towards riding (On Riding 26th of May, 2009). Time has passed between then and now and has helped me refine my thoughts. I realize that after a slow and tender process, I have finally let go of the dressage rider within. To reach this point is monumental, as I have ridden horses for over thirty years and once swore I would be a dressage rider until I was a doddery old woman nearing her death bed.

I am now riding approximately 95% less than I was two years ago and, and until about three weeks ago when a student asked me to ride her horse, it had been months since I worked a horse in the arena. It felt strange to sit on a horse other than Little Love and even stranger to start working the horse into some sort of frame. He was bitless, of course, but nevertheless I felt oddly out of place on his back. Due to my sore tailbone I took it easy, but ended up riding for over forty minutes at walk and rising trot.

The horse I was riding was one of the biggest horses I have ever ridden, and I have ridden some pretty massive ones in the past, having been a vaulting trainer. I have known this horse for a few years now and have ridden him a few times before, so I knew going into the ride how much power and focus I would need. Due to the fact that I hadn’t truly ridden dressage for months, I felt slightly intimidated by the situation.

Before getting on, I sent the horse a mental message of what we would be doing together. I also explained that I would not ask for anything he could not physically do. I hoped for two way communication and promised to listen to what the horse had to say. I got into the saddle with a “one step at a time” attitude, trying to let go of any previous experiences, any set goals or plans for the ride, all possible premonitions.

I had nothing to worry about. What had previously been strenuous and perhaps a challenge with this particular horse now came easily and without a second thought. With relatively light effort and by making adjustments in my own seat I was able to guide the horse towards straightness. This resulted in him relaxing and starting to use his muscles correctly. In the end we had beautiful collection, something this young horse did not offer on a daily basis.

I was stumped. How could it be possible that after not riding for months, I seemed to be a better rider than before? Wasn’t it practice that made you perfect?

Ask any dressage rider what their ultimate goal is, and the word "connection" will pop up in the conversation. They are talking about the kind of connection that leads to harmony with the horse, another concept that so often seems out of reach. To reach this ultimate goal, most dressage riders spend their whole life taking lessons and perfecting their riding skills. And I, too, can recall being that person, diligently striving for that missing piece that would lead to bliss under saddle.

I drove home thinking about the ride on my student's horse. All these years I had believed that riding was a technical and physical task based on the laws of biomechanics - something it undoubtedly also is. But perhaps I hadn’t given enough credit to the emotional and psychological side of it. Something had happened in that arena with that horse that I had never truly understood before. Was this what connection and harmony could feel like? Was this the dream under saddle everyone was chasing? How ironic that I had had to first let go of riding, to feel this.

But how appropriate.

It was not the first time I had experienced something I thought was connection and harmony. At several occasions during my dressage "career" (if you can call it that) there had been times where I had felt that "Eureka!" moment. Those moments had always been a product of hard work, a result of struggle and hours of sweating in the saddle. I now realize that perhaps some of them had been contrived, based on a physical feeling rather than a holistic feeling. In all the training and practicing and honing of skill, I had lacked the connection that came from within. In fact, was it possible that by focusing solely on the physical aspect of riding, I had prevented myself from finding what I was looking for?

What is true connection? Is it the ability to go together in physical movement without hindering each other? Or is it something more, something invisible and unattainable by force? You can force a horse into movement and you can will yourself to follow that movement with your body, but can harmony be present in such an act? The American Heritage Dictionary says that harmony is "agreement in feeling or opinion". When we bridle and saddle a horse, is it even possible for him to feel harmonious? Is the harmony we seek just a subjective dream created by human?

The experience with my student's horse had been exceptional, yet it didn’t make me want to ride more. Actually, quite the contrary. I am no longer able to turn back and return where I once was, the dressage rider within is gone forever.

This fall one of my blog readers sent me some interesting information about the damage riding causes to horses’ backs. This extensive study talks about the sinking of the back (and thus pressure on the vertebrae); the tissue damage caused by excessive pressure; the fact that horses grow until up to the age 5 and even beyond, but yet are trained under saddle starting at 3 and even younger. Not to mention the harmful effects of the riders hands and bad body posture (seat). But even under the best rider in the world, harmful pressure is applied to the horse’s back. After the investigation of 443 horses, the findings concluded that only 7% of the horses had NO damage to their backs.

Seven percent.

These are sobering details. Many people will like to argue that this was just one study and it is true, it is just one study. I wonder why this subject has not been studied more. Perhaps because we are afraid of what we will find?

Under the current circumstances I still trail ride Little Love, but I can't help but wonder: If she was given free choice, would she ever let me on her back again? I'm not sure. Does any horse want to be ridden? Perhaps not. They did not evolve over millions of years just to carry us on their backs.

My friend Sam tells me that when children and adults interact with his horses in liberty, some horses occasionally invite people on their backs. I believe this does not happen because the horse wants to be ridden in the traditional sense, but because he wants to give the human the gift of riding. After all, love and friendship are about giving and allowing. The key factor in these situations is to respect the wishes of the gift giver.

One day, when Little Love's and my situation is different, I hope to be able to offer her that choice and let her decide for herself. In the meanwhile, I try to stay off her back as much as possible. The abovementioned study concludes that we should not ride horses for more than 15 minutes at a time and always in free collection. I am keeping this in mind and helping Little Love discover free collection during our liberty work. I make a point of dismounting and walking on the trails when possible. I cannot control how others ride this horse, but I can make these choices for myself.

Letting go of riding is not always easy. For some people it happens overnight and for some, like me, it is a slow and winding road. Then there are those who don't ever want to take that journey. We all must evolve in our own time, with our own horses.

 ~ K

It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. ~K.T. Jong


  1. Change and truth can be hard sometimes. But acceptance can set you free! :) So happy you are doing what you are doing.

    My mom wrote a beautiful, and very informative book called "Do They Know? "Humanity" Through The Eyes Of A Horse" by Catherine Scott. In her book she covers many subjects that are very important I think for anyone who has, or is around horses. One of the many topics is saddles and riding. In her book, it is stated - through much study:
    "A saddle sitting on the skin puts it's gravitational weight on the back, tighten the cinch and the direct pressure increases and the weight in effect is multiplied. The skin and deep muscle tissues are crushed between saddle and bone. With a rider more weight, blunt force and friction motion are added. A perfectly fitted western saddle with a rider an average weight of 150 lbs and a "good seat" apply an average pressure of 5.8 to 14+ pounds per square inch. These figures increase with added speed, rider movement and any pressure points that may exist. The maximum capillary closure pressure of the muscle tissue in a horses back is 0.75 pounds per square inch, anything greater shuts down blood supply. No blood flow means no oxygen, the result, cell death. Damage occurs 15 minutes after loss of blood supply. The longer under saddle, the more damage. When outer signs of damage become evident as pain, redness or swelling, subcutaneous necrosis has already been experienced. An outer reflection of the internal condition. Severely damaged skin cells loose their pigment and can only produce white hairs."

    Damage done to horses backs due to our tack and riding IS greatly studied. Where do you think the manufacturers of saddle pads and saddles get their information? Why do you think they make these "shock absorbing" pads, or pads with "pressure relief spots" cut out, or saddles that flex, etc. They don't tell us HOW they get their info or stats because they want to sell their product. It is VERY well known the damage we do to a horses back, but we are too stupid to see it - or even question it - and we want to keep "using" horses. If what we did to them didn't cause pain, damage, and cell suffocation and death, why then do we pay $200+ for a specialized pad, or thousands for a saddle? (Which by the way don't do a BIT of good!) There wouldn't be a need for any of it if riding a horse didn't cause damage.... right? Seems so simple. And, even with our butts on a horses back - it still causes capillary closure, which happens as soon as you sit on them. Just because actual damage (TOTAL suffocation of the cells) doesn't occur for 15 minutes doesn't mean you aren't still causing trauma. Not to mention to other traumas that may be occurring (for example emotional and psychological). Oh, and posting a trot.... does NOT relieve pressure from their backs. When you stand, your weight doesn't disappear. It's actually multiplied because you are forcing yourself UP from the stirrups.

    True connection.... you are correct in your question... which means you already know the answer.... you now need to accept it. "Or is it something more, something invisible and unattainable by force?"

    "When we bridle and saddle a horse, is it even possible for him to feel harmonious? Is the harmony we seek just a subjective dream created by human?"
    I do not feel it is possible for the horse to feel harmonious. Would you if you were the horse? I do feel that there are many horses out there that really like their people, and they will do what they want to make their people happy, and sometimes they want to figure out what you are doing and try to help, but it's still not harmonious until the horse is set free, in all forms of the word. Then they can truly decide to be with a person or not.


  2. Your friend Sam sounds like a really cool person, must have very special people visit, and VERY special horses. That is very exciting to hear. :) You are right, riding is a GIFT, given by the horse itself, to get on IT'S back. :) They are so awesome. :)

    I have ridden since I was a year old. I have only been clearly INVITED to ride once. I was 20 and I had a 3 year old 17 hand palomino thoroughbred gelding I named Coty that I bought at an auction as a long 2 year old. Wild and untrained. I had tried to "train" him and he bucked harder than any rodeo horse I had ever seen. I had until this day, only ridden him a few times without incident, maybe 5 times in total. He bucked.... allot and very hard. (now in hindsight I understand why) This day was a sunny day in winter after a 3 day snow storm left us with about 4 feet of snow. We went out for a walk (since that's about all I could do with him). He wanted to go through the woods where the snow was deep. He was happy to be out and walked through the snow with ease. Me on the other hand, was having a very hard time keeping up. I was young and in good shape and kept up for quite a while, but I was getting tired trudging through waste deep snow so I stopped often to take a breath. After about the 3rd time I stopped, I was walking much slower and Coty was getting tired of waiting for me. He, until this time, was walking beside me or halfway in front of me. When he Invited me up, it was very clear. He was walking next to me, he took a couple really big fast steps in front of me (past me) and stopped completely perpendicular to me! Totally blocking the path. I was standing on the ground facing right where I would be if I was going to jump up onto his back. He looked back at me with a sparkle in his eye. I paused for quite some time, wondering if he was really serious, or if he was just going to buck me off if I did jump up. We stood there for a long time, he patiently waited for me to decide what I was going to do. I decided that I wouldn't. I declined is help. I blew it. I was too afraid of getting bucked off again and I now know that he wouldn't have, but I blew it. I attempted riding him about 10 more times over 4 years after that. Only ONE of those times I actually got somewhere. Every other time I ended up on the ground. Talk about NOT LISTENING! Coty has since passed, but that day will forever live in me.

    "There is illusion where ever we cast our eyes. We live in a world of fantasy and wish for all others to play their parts in our fantasy. It is a great task to look honestly at the reality for all life. To then take part on purpose." ~Catherine Scott.

  3. OMG that was the coolest story! I was reading and so hoping you took the offer and climbed on Coty, but I can see why you didn't, having been bucked off so many times. I can also see why you are kicking yourself now for not taking the offer!!! Ah, to go back and change history, hindsight is brilliant but sometimes painful.

    Thank you for sharing that and the other info. I think you are right about the saddle manufacturers, i didn't even think of that. Of course us ordinary mortals never see any of their studies, because they want to sell saddles and pads instead of have people stop riding.

  4. I know right!!??!! :) Oh, well. Coty taught me allot, and both he and his lessons will be with me forever. :)

    Yeah..... I was so into buying the best tack that I could. I thought I was doing the best thing for my horses (and maybe I was at that time?). After I looked at if from another angle.... DUH!! You wouldn't believe how many times I have heard people mistake saddle scars (white marks on the withers and cinch area) for paint markings! Yikes.

    Oh, and I forgot to write too.... a reason for such a short time before cell damage is because of the TYPE of muscle that is along the back. People argue... well if it's damaging the horses back and they are so big, then why isn't my butt damaged? Well, the type of muscle in our butt is a more dense muscle and it requires less oxygen. This is why we can sit on it for so long. It's a "slow twitch" muscle. The type of muscle along the horses back is a "fast twitch" muscle. It's a much finer structured muscle. This is also the reason why it's the first muscle to deteriorate when a horse is unhealthy, malnourished, or ridden allot. They require more more oxygen and have quicker reflexes than a slow twitch muscle.


  5. Shelby in CaliforniaDecember 22, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    Love reading the interchange between you two! What a great story about Coty, how he offered himself to you... I think he understood your trepidation ( and for good reason!), but what a gift this was in the offering! Horses are such brilliant teachers. Katariina, thank you for all your thoughfull insight and words of wisdon... always gives us readers so much to think about. Can't wait to read more...

  6. Very thought provoking information!
    I would like to read some of these studies you are speaking of -- if you have any links, please share. I would like to read and examine the studies myself so that I may be allowed to come to my own conclusions.
    .On another note -- I watched the movie "earthlings" the other night. Having worked in the Dairy Industry for many years (and ON Dairy farms in the past) I can HONESTLY say that ALL of the information they provided was incorrect. I am all for informing people, but only if the FACTS are presented. Anything else is just opinion and should be presented as such.
    I agree that riding is a gift that one should never take for granted. I also feel that if a person chooses to accept that gift, they should not be labeled or judged. I've been with my horse for 13 years and feel that I am the most qualified person to determine what he is telling me. If I was a horse and had a compassionate rider that allowed me to choose during our rides -- would I want someone riding me? Absolutely!

  7. Just to clarify...
    My last response to the question about riding horses is in response to Voiceofthehorse's question about - Would you find it a harmonious for someone to ride you if you where a horse? If it was a kind, considerate person who considered my feelings....yes, I would.

    Also, my response is mostly directed at voiceofthehorse. She seems very knowledgable and I would like to know where she is finding her information.

  8. As always Katariina, excellent post!

    You are a lovely writer and person.

    If I had the oppportunity to meet you in person, I would jump at the chance :-)

  9. My husband grew up on a small dairy in Northern California. He saw, and did, everything running a dairy entails. When you are involved, it's easy to believe what you are doing is right. It's not much different than everything that is being discussed about treatment of horses. In the dair industry it is acceptable that the male dairy calves are slaughtered as veil. Then they too are being used and making some money, because otherwise they are waste. A by-product of keeping cows producing milk. Small dairies may run differently than large scale ones do, but the bottom line is still the same. And yes, there may be some that are run and staffed by more caring people. Not much different than horses still being "used", just by more caring and kind people. It's all the same. In making the movie, Shaun was VERY careful to only provide fact. Opinion has no place in a documentary film. That would contradict the title. I grew up in the mid west in MN where there are many large scale dairies and hog farms. What was documented in the movie IS what happens. It's all about making money. The people running those operations aren't doing it because they want to abuse animals, or even because they love animals. They are doing it as their living, to feed their families, to make money. The animals are just tools. I have seen runt piglets thrown into the manure pits to drown because they would require more care so they are disposed of. Some farmers do as you saw in the movie. That is not uncommon. It's very disturbing.
    But, I think the entire concept of drinking another animals milk, that is produced for THEIR babies, is absurd. There is NO other mammal that drinks milk it's entire life, and especially that of another species. There is no human that would lactate and nurse it's child until they were 50. And, after a certain age and development of the body, milk no longer provides beneficial nutrients, but is detrimental. There is no mammal that makes milk for any reason other than to give life giving sustenance to it's offspring. To force a cow to have babies, take the babies away and then rape her for her milk is awful. We have genetically bred these poor cows to have utters that are WAY too large. They are very painful, hinder movement, and cause their hips to break down early in their life. Not to mention the conditions they live in, and the diet they are forced to eat. But, since they get a break from the barn out in a pasture when they are pregnant, and since we mass produce them.... so what right.

  10. I have always been a kind and thoughtful rider. I grew up with them, on them, and actually pretending to BE them.(I didn't get off my hands and knees till I was 12 I bet! :)) I was/ still am, very sensitive and I could feel things. I rode my horses, but I would also walk. I was always worried about their feet, I always tried to make everything as easy as possible for them, I used the best tack, but mostly I rode bareback because I could feel them better. I would always get off and walk when we went down hill because I knew it hurt their withers, but, I still rode them, for miles, almost everyday. My horses still liked me, even though I was using them. They still liked me even though I was feeding meals and they would have painful bellies during the rest of the day, they still liked me even though I made them go places they would have rather not gone, but did anyway because I asked, they still liked me even though I let other people get on them and flop around, fall off, and cause their backs pain. They are caring, forgiving, and very loving beings. There are many horses that still look forward to seeing their person who doesn't greet them with kindness, but they still hope that maybe one day they will (this is the case with my neighbors horses). People don't have to ride them to be with them. To go down the trail together. To play and have fun together. They do like to get out and go places, but I can't say they like having a person ON them. They accept it because they like the person, or maybe (as was talked about before), learned helplessness. That is what they know people do, and they haven't experienced anything different. I'm not telling you how to be with your horse Carol, and I'm not sure where you are seeing someone judging or labeling someone, I am just saying, when one know the facts, one becomes responsible for those facts. Many people don't want to know, so I commend you for your willingness to explore. It is difficult and emotional. I can only speak for myself and my experiences and my feelings. I don't judge anyone for what they do. I have said that before. Everyone is perfect where they are. What people chose to do whith their horses is just fine for them.
    My information has come from MANY places, and many years of studying, ALLOT of digging, and talking to many people. It's out there if you WANT to find it.

  11. Voiceofthehorses,
    Thank you for your response.
    Regarding the Dairy Industry, I still disagree with EVERYTHING the movie talked about....and not just because I am employeed by the dairy industry. I have yet to see anything happen by the way they describe. I live in Wisconsin which is very well known as a "dairy state." I have been on 50-cow farms and 500-cow farms. My roomate in college lived on a dairy farm. I used to go home with her on weekends to help milk. I have an Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology. I did 2 month internship with a large animal veterinarian in which I vistited literally over 100 or so different farms. The area I work in today also has to do with animal welfare (believe it or not). Again- I have NEVER seen what that movie implies, so if it does happen, it happens on a very tiny scale - not something I feel should be passed off to the public as true in most cases. ...but I did not make the movie ....and I am not the first to say this - but a person should not believe everything they hear or read. I am perfectly ok to say that I can respectfully agree to disagree.
    As far as riding goes, I AM very interested in the studies done on riding and the horse's anatomy and what harm it may cause. I want to view the reports and understand what was done and found. I have searched on places on the internet and only find dead ends or things that don't pertain.

  12. As I have said before.. I am learning about this new path with horses. I DO want to give my boy the best life that I can...and as "happy" as he can be. Unfortunately I don't have a farm and I DO have some restrictions of what I can do.
    I do enjoy "some" very light riding and I am not yet ready to give that up (unless of course if Griffin starts saying "no" to my requests to ride -- if he did then I would stop. I see myself as having other horses in the future as well. If- at some point I choose to stop altogether, I want to have access to the studies to back up my own explanations to others. You could say I am on the fence somewhat on this issue and I want to know more. Without those studies, without the science behind what is being advocated -- it simply turns into just another opinion. Admittedly- I am much less likely to change my activities over a few opinions -- especially when my horse is showing no upset or resistance. Since I have been on this path for such a short time -- time itself may change things. Griffin may hold all the answers I am seeking once he is certain I am listening. Still...I would like to see the studies if they exist....after all ..I am a human. As Katariina says -- we are all on our own path, our own journey . I am merely looking for information in every corner I can find it and reserving the right to make up my own mind. I did not mean to sound defensive and I apologize if I came across in that manner :-(

  13. I have done some pressure measurements on horses with saddles and riders. The resulting scans show areas of pressure great enough to close down capillary flow and other areas where the pressure is below the critical value.

    In most instances, as the horse moves and the rider moves, the pressures rise and fall. (A non-fitting saddle, of course, will not have this pressure variability in the areas where the saddle presses.)

    Riding is okay with a proper saddle and good riding skills. Sitting on the horse with the horse not moving results in the pressure being constant.


  14. Wow, lots of activity and conversation going on since I last visited!

    Carol, I found information on the site but you have to be a member I think to see the forums where they have the info on riding(it's free though).
    Voiceofthehorse, do you have any other links to share concerning the studies done on horse backs?
    Dixies mom, thanks for also commenting, do you happen to have any info on the internet on the riding studies you were part of?

  15. Great post once again, Katariina! This is something that interests me alot. It would be nice to be faster though, I am thinking about going for a bike ride with my horse next summer.
    Like our neighbor does:

    Too bad I can't find any photos of him with his weird things he sometimes uses, they are extensions to legs, they look like fun and he goes very fast with those :D

  16. Jenny, I LOVE that video! Thanks for sharing it :-)

  17. I have been reading this blog (all of it) over the last few days. I don't agree with everything but we are all looking for answers. However as I read I concerned about some statements that would appear to be very extreme and strong opinions coming thru in the comments. So I wanted to voice my opinion.
    I resent the implications that I “use” my horse and will be made to feel like a criminal for wanting to ride my horse. My horse and I are connected and have a strong bond – he is a very special horse and I take great care of him. He lives in a paddock 24/7 with his friends. We have a 10 acres field to ride in or just spend time with each other. We like to be a little different from the norm and go against a lot of the mainstream philosophies. He is always been barefoot, my next step is bitless bridle – I can ride him in a halter so I don’t expect any issues other than sourcing the right bridle.
    Voiceofthehorse - You are entitled to your opinion as am I, but you are not entitled to force your opinion on others are make them feel uncomfortable for making decisions for themselves. You have made some very strong opinionated comments that I believe are in very delicate territory.
    You have very strongly voiced your opinion and say you don’t judge but your words very clearly don’t back that up. You have been asked by Carol and Katriina for facts and still have not provided any……not helpful! If you have a strong opinion and want people to listen then surely it is important to back it up with facts. We are all reading this as we are all wanting to learn. Not to be judge/ridiculed/have opinions forced down our throats/be made to feel like an abuser of our horses/emotionally manipulated etc
    You have seen runt piglets been thrown into the manure pits to drown – so what did you do? Rescue them, call the appropriate animal abuse agency? I certainly hope you did – this is indisputably cruelty and illegal! I feel sick just thinking of it!
    Don’t even get me started on your comments re vegetarianism and milk – once again another delicate issue – esp when kids that are not of an age where they can make informed decisions for themselves. What happens when they go to birthday parties/friends houses etc what if they accidently ate something the parents didn’t approve of – are they to going to feel guilty, like they have let their parents down? Great your daughter is asking questions and keen to learn but the reality she is just parroting your views at 4 years old. I completely agree with Carol – you are not offering her completely unbiased view. I have been there done that when I as a child – only to grow up and realise that life isn’t all black and white – grey exits too.
    Voiceofthehorse “What I found interesting, is that deep down, I think people "know" we shouldn't kill and eat other animals (and that's why they become so uncomfortable around those that are vegetarians),” –OMG are you kidding me? what gives you the right to think you are so superior - you are not being open/ accepting or respectful of others views you are being quite the opposite. You are entitled to your opinion and let’s be clear I am not uncomfortable around vegetarians – I am just simply disgusted with your attitude!
    I too watched Earthlings and yes it was horrific. Some points of concern with the documentary – I always get annoyed with all the horrific gore and blatant abuse then the lack of information following. Did they get prosecuted? The Kosher farm – they were doing all those things they weren’t suppose to so what happened? Some of the footage is over ten years old is that still happening? So please let’s not tar all meat industry worldwide with the same brush.
    I can only speak for my country – and after that boy I am so glad I live in NZ!! Yes I am not naive enough to think there is not abuse at all in NZ. But the practises in the movie are not common practise in NZ.

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  19. continued from the above Our dairy cows live in paddocks – many farms have a system where the cows walk themselves in when they want to be milked. I have NEVER heard of any farms where they are tied to stalls. There is a bill in the pipeline for passing to completely ban caged pig farming. There has been a huge backlash to caged practises and a high number of pig farms are outdoor paddocks etc. Our eggs need to be labelled free range, cage etc. We don’t feed our cattle corm in those stalls like in the movie the list goes on.
    Most cosmetic companies don’t test on animals now so the rate of vivisection/animals experiments I would think should be greatly reduced. So yes it is scary/horrific/enlightening and there is still urgent action needed to help the animals but please don’t be naive enough to think this happens all the time everywhere. Also as a side – from the movie is seems clear that the police should start looking in the slaughter houses of America as there seems to be a host of psychotic beings with severe anger management issues!!! If they can treat these animals with such disrespect I am sure they treat the humans in their lives with the same level of appalling lack of respect. Increasing amount of research suggests there is a massive correlation between animal abuse and physical violence/murdering in humans!!
    Voiceofthehorse “I'm not telling you how to be with your horse Carol, and I'm not sure where you are seeing someone judging or labeling someone, I am just saying, when one know the facts, one becomes responsible for those facts.” – oh but you are judging you are very clearly saying what you think everyone should and shouldn’t do. You are standing high and preaching on your soap box – your opinion would no doubtedly be deemed as extreme by the mainstream. And that’s fine your entitled to do have it but what we are asking for is respect and facts. Facts – interesting we are still waiting for you to present the facts so we can then make a decision for ourselves.
    Voiceofthehorse “I don't judge anyone for what they do. I have said that before. Everyone is perfect where they are. What people chose to do whith their horses is just fine for them.” You may not be meaning to judge but clearly you are!
    Voiceofthehorse My information has come from MANY places, and many years of studying, ALLOT of digging, and talking to many people. It's out there if you WANT to find it. – ****what a cop out. In New Zealand we have a saying “put up or shut up!” If you are not willing to provide the fact to back up your belief then be very careful about making such opinionated comments.
    Yes I am directing this mainly at one person – Voiceofthehorse because you regularly continue to be outspoken and overly judgemental!
    So come on people we are all here to read, learn and grow as horse owners. So show some respect and tolerance. It’s about education.

  20. I think we need to be tolerant of other people's places on the path. After all, it is a personal journey and everyone treads a different path even though our goals for a better understanding of our horses is the same.

    I have read several studies and my TB, in his eventing days, also had white hairs on his back which are now gone. Everyone knew it was from a badly fitting saddle but we all just got on with it back then. I too had the best saddle, gel pads, ice boots you name it. But aside from that, I have so many questions that I can't quite answer and my thoughts on riding swing back and forth. Do I or don't I?

    Sometimes when we decide to go to a movie or lunch with our friends, they allow us to choose and they may not have chosen that movie or that place to eat as they would have preffered another place. But they go for us. Other times they choose and it may not be our choice, but we go because we know they will enjoy it and we got to choose last time and next time it will be our turn again. Do horses see riding this way when they offer or allow it?

    My TB loves to gallop but lives in a 5 acre paddock. Does he consent to a trail ride because it is the only way he can safely get out and run as long as he wants? He is, after all, kept prisoner by a fence and if I were to never leave my back yard, even though it is quite big, and do what I enjoyed, even as a compromise somewhere along the line, I know I would go crazy. Is it a compromise to modern living conditions? I carry you, the human, and I then get to go and explore as any curious horse would love to do? Sure, it's not ideal, as no doubt if I could open the gate and let him go on his own and he would return safely without causing a car pile up or be hurt himself, I'm sure he would rather not carry a rider.

    I remember we had a bad fall one time out on the cross country course on the flat. We were galloping along a long grass straight and my TB's front leg hit a dip in the ground. We flipped through the air, and as soon as I hit the ground I was on my feet calling his name. He was on the ground, winded, but he lifted his head, looked me up and down, saw I was ok and dropped hi head with a groan to say, "Thank God she is ok!" The stewards later told me that my horse had nearly killed himself to throw me clear. I have seen horses pick themselves up and run away on course. My horse refused to leave my side. He used to hand me tools when I was fixing fences and stable doors. He would follow me as I weeded his paddock. Perhaps he had no objections to me asking anything of him because out on rides, he chose the pace, he would ask to swim and we would go and if I turned up with my gear and he walked away, we would just sit under a tree and hang out.

    I think by keeping horses we imprison them to some degree. By asking for even in hand work we ask for something. Is that wrong too? Perhaps not on as large a scale but we are still asking the horse to do something for us. Do horses see what we ask of them as their job, same as most of us go to work? I know my job as a nurse does me physical and emotional harm, yet to survive I still go.

    There are humans who don't mind working, some spend far too much time doing so, others are refuse to get a job and hate it with a passion. Can the same be said for horses?

    I am playing Devil's Advocate here and simply throwing some questions out there. You can't paint every horse with the same brush for like us, they are all different. Look at the difference in opinion and perception over this blog entry and then some people's reactions? If we are so different, are horses not that way too?

    So let us show the same insight and tolerance to each other as we do to our horses. I have spent time on certain forums where people aim to do everything for their horses yet crucify other members, hence why I have taken time to myself for a while and worked on my own thoughts. You are right Sonya. Respect, tolerance and education. Most of all, we know our own horses best.

  21. Meet the horse where the horse is. I have a 5 year old Arabian mare (somehow I still think of her as my filly) and she is teaching me to meet her side-by-side. She picked me as a yearling when I bought her stable mate, I brought the little one home a few months later and she has been my spiritual teacher ever since. Her spirit is as preserved as possible in a domestic setting. Due to her 'intact spirit' she is fully capable of expressing her needs. After a few rides last year, she decided to fill me in on something .... riding is not her preferrd way to spend time. As I listened more deeply he showed me what it feels like to carry someone's energy on her back while managing her own body and the energies of her environment ... it was too much to handle safely. She is too young and inexperienced to carry that much responsibility. She is extremely sensitive and in tune, not spooky at all, but all-knowing/aware. That might be part of why she can get overwhelmed with energies. When we wander through the woods, like we did yesterday for 5 miles, I wonder though ... would she carry me if we were attacked or followed by someone? Could I jump on her back and race out of danger with her? I wish I knew. Maybe she would offer herself like Coty?

    Yesterday, my friend felt sorry for me as I walked next to her while she rode her gelding. I quickly let her know that I feel lucky that my horse provides this beautiful way of being together. If my mare would not have asked me to stay on the ground I would have gone into human default and started to ride her more and more, until it would have been the 'major connecter' for us. I just wrote about that in my blog: why do we feel we need to do, and move with our horses in order to feel connected? Ride, drive, lunge ...?
    Connecting is easily achieved through being.
    Sometimes we 'be'. And other times, like yesterday, we both walked in awe on a new trail through a gorge, a bubbling river on our left and an awe invoking, boulder speckled hillside on our right. We both stopped and gawked a lot, breathing in rhythm. I was not missing a thing!