Horsemanship: an English or a Western Thing?
When it comes to horsemanship trainers, it seems to be mostly focused on the Western discipline. Though all horses, whether English or Western disciplined, communicate and react the same, I think it would be nice to have more good, well known English horsemanship trainers to learn from as well. Establishing a strong bond with your horse where he respects you isn't something that can only benefit Western riders and I think some people shy away from their training tips because they are "cowboys" or "cowgirls".
With that said, I myself follow many Western trainers who focus on horsemanship which I then apply to my English discipline. Two of which are Monty Roberts and Warwick Schiller. I have mentioned these two trainers briefly in the past, but I thought I would share more great points that they talk about that can benefit all riders.
Though it seems like the join up exercise is a little controversial, I am one who is for it. For those who believe that you are just chasing a horse to the point of exhaustion, you have got the wrong idea. In fact, a mare will do a similar thing to her foal if he is disobeying. All horses feel safer in a herd than they do alone.
A foal who is not obeying, will be pushed away from the herd by his mother until he learns his lesson and learns who is in charge. They learn pretty quick too. When the mare allows the foal to come back into the group she will turn away from him, creating a draw.
The reason for driving a horse to canter around so many times in both directions is simple, horses have a tendency to flee before they think. In the wild, they will run for so long to loose the predator. Once they have ran that distance in a ring (about 3 times in each direction in a 60 foot round ring), they start to think and figure out what you are communicating to them. Their urge to flee isn't there any more and they want to come in to the centre with you, where they feel safe and respect you as the leader.
The best video I have found of Monty Roberts explaining the join up exercise and what signs to look for can be found below. I have done the join up exercise myself and it has worked for me once I followed the steps shown in this video. It isn't something that only an extremely experienced trainer can do. As long as you have understood what horsemanship truly is and want to gain that relationship with your horse, you shouldn't have a problem with this either (but remember, if it doesn't work, it's not the horse's fault, you did something wrong).
When it comes to follow up or hooking on, as Warwick Schiller calls it, it is just as important as join up. You want to make sure that they are indeed following you and not trying to dominate you by cutting you off and being disrespectful which can happen. Warwick Schiller talks about these things to look for in this short video below as well.
So hopefully all of this has given you something to think about or even given you a fresh look on the join up exercise. Like I said earlier in this post, I wished there were more English trainers teaching us about these things so that less English riders will think of horsemanship as a "Western thing". Then again, it really shouldn't matter whether they wear a cowboy hat or not, as long as it benefits the horse.
Thank you for reading this week's Pure Horse Sense blog post. I wish you all the best on your horsemanship training to build a better relationship with your horse.
Until next time, happy riding!