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One of the wonderful things about riding is that it offers us the opportunity to learn for a lifetime. There are always new techniques to master. We can always gain new insights into ourselves. Our bodies adapt wonderfully to the demands of physical work and stress. And there are the challenges of our horses and the partnerships we develop with them.
For Pat Burgess a partnership is essential. I read some of her philosophy recently and felt quite inspired:
“At the heart of my philosophy is the partnership with the horse. It is so important. The horse must know that you are the boss and he must develop trust and confidence is you, and respect for you. People try to establish dominance with whips, strong bits and so on, but it is not that at all….
The partnership must be built on trust, mutual respect and discipline. You must have an affinity with the horse – a love and understanding of him. A true ‘horse-man’ achieves the perfect partnership by becoming one with the horse on every level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. To achieve that bond you must be finely tuned to each other, using your body language and thoughts to communicate instinctively. That harmony is the difference between mediocrity and brilliance. The horse has to want to jump, it has to be his choice – but you have to make it his choice though your intention becoming his intention. This will only happen if you progress slowly so that the work is easy and you build his confidence – it cannot happen by force”. (From Celebrity Jumping Exercises compiled by Caroline Orme and published by David and Charles 2009)
I’ve been lucky enough to be riding my new horse for the last 2 months. In doing so I’ve had time to reflect on how to build a new partnership and been building a new partnership. In doing so I’ve worked much to the philosophy Pat describes above. The kind of things I have been doing include:
- Spending time with my horse – tacking him up, untacking him, taking him out to graze and talking to him;
- Having good contact with him that he enjoys and has begun to seek out – grooming him (he was scared before), just standing next to him and stroking him (he now moves to me for it);
- Maintaining discipline on the ground – he is not allowed to rub his bridle, he is not allowed to just walk off when I have dismounted etc;
- Being consistent in my aids and demands when riding as well as my praise;
- Being reasonable in the demands I make on him and placing him in the best possible position to meet those demands. For example I ask him to jump positively and I always have an instructor on the ground that I have enormous faith in to assist and advise me.
- Flatwork, flatwork and more flatwork. Then just having some fun on outrides.
These have definitely helped me mesh with my new horse. They also help me with Shangai Affair. If you have any other advice you would like to offer us that works, or any feedback on my ideas, please let us know.