Some horse owners have simple expectations of their horses. Standing in the pasture about covers it- and a couple of trail rides a year seals the deal. I don’t actually know anyone who falls into that category.
Most of us love the equine-human partnership and want more. We have goals; some of my clients want to want to abandon their fear of the canter, some want to show their horses. Most have a feeling while riding that is a combination of freedom and oneness that is addictive. Riders can be like surfers looking for the perfect wave. We want a ride with Losgelassenheit- a dressage word that describes a feeling of relaxed forward movement that is effortlessly rhythmic.
It can be hard to know what is fair to expect of an individual horse. Here’s one rule of thumb: if you have to ask, there is a good chance the Olympics aren’t in your future. So sad, now exhale. On the other hand, I have taken two mid-range foals to upper levels in dressage. We didn’t have elite gaits but success is measured in more than one way- taking that journey with them changed who I am.
Is it fair to ask so much from a horse? Is it fair to let them stand in a field? That’s open to debate, but I am sure of this. Horses love an enthusiastic rider and a perfect storm of positivity and training can lift a horse above his physical limitations. Hard work and enthusiastic commitment can buy what money can’t; the combined result can be greater than the sum of the horse and rider parts. That synergy is the magic that everyone seeks.
I know a rider preparing for Grand Prix, and two preparing to canter. The required path is the same; generosity- breathe deep and give more. Whatever level of commitment you make, if you want more- you have to give more. It’s just true- in life and with horses; we get back just about exactly what we put out. No mystery- no excuses- no shortcuts.
Jacqueline Kennedy was a rider. I wonder if she might have said it first, “Ask not what your horse can do for you- ask what you can do for your horse.”
(Photo: Elena and Nube’)