During the years I've been writing this blog, I have had a lot of questions thrown at me. OK, maybe some were asked, but the "Why do you...?" questions are usually thrown with a javelin. At my face.
I'm not a fan or engager of trolls, and those of you who check in regularly know I can get pretty pissy with those who want to pick a fight, broadcast their disdain or correct my spelling, especially when disguised as a seemingly innocent question.
At the same time, getting my back up because somebody is rude, thick, or not actually reading what's been written, just trying to clear a platform for themselves, means I often miss, ignore or walk away from some legitimate questions.
The ones I get the most come from riders of other disciplines. Mainly, I'm just being honest here, from people who ride dressage.
Wait, let me get a little more specific, from people who introduce themselves by saying, "I ride dressaaaage." Then, wait a beat, or two, or six, for their standing ovation, or for me to jump off my high horse and bow to their superiority.
I've gotta be straight here. My reaction is identical to the one I have when I hear "I use Parelli, have you heard of it?"
par·ell·i nat·ur·al horse·man·ship
1. a program that uses an approach to communicating with horses based on natural equine behaviors, to achieve trust and respect in the horse/human relationship. PNH methods are similar to the ways that horses act with one another within a herd
The first definition encompasses what every single horse person on the planet wants to achieve, no matter what their education, experience or piece of equipment they slap on their horses backs or heads. I ride dressage, you ride dressage, even this woman, somewhere, somehow, thinks she is riding dressage.
Because we ALL want an obedient mount, we ALL want our horse and ourselves to be flexible and in balance, correct?
Then, there's the Parelli deal. The concept is legit. I spent a long time watching horses interact with each other in order to understand them better. I still do. Much of my training approach is based on the pressure points horses use with each other, how they drive, turn and stop each other, their hierarchy and body language. I got the concept from western trainers, although the better ones don't consider it a cowboy approach, just a good one, you know, riding dressage.
The thing is, one day I read a training tip, on the Parelli website. A devotee had written in, asking how to cope with a horse that bit her every time she tightened her cinch. The answer was, I kid you not, to shove a carrot in the horse's mouth every time she swung around to bite her. That way, the owner could turn saddling into a positive experience.
"Sometimes when students have problems with horses biting at them when they tighten the cinch, I tell them to give their horse a carrot when he puts his ears back and starts to swing his head around." http://www.parelli.com/help-my-horse-is-way-too-smart.html
"Give me a carrot bee-atch."
OK. I was done with Parelli.
Back pain? That would be a natural reaction. Bitchy mare? That would be a natural reaction. Personally, I would not respond to either reaction with a carrot.
Because nobody, but nobody created that training tip by watching the interaction of horses in a herd.
To tell the truth, from the horse's viewpoint there is absolutely nothing natural about a person riding them. Nothing.
Anyway, I digress, a bunch. My point is, there is an identical gleam in the eye of the person who declares their status in the world with, "I ride dressage," and the one who says, "I am a Natural Horse Man Ship."
Both statements tell me the rider would rather hide their ignorance behind a label, and a misunderstood one at that, than actually travel the road to everything horsaii.
"I ride horses."
That statement perks my interest, brings a smile, and gets me looking for conversation. It leads to all kinds of fun.
"I study dressage."
"I study Parelli."
"Is it working for you?"
See the difference? We can go riding together! We might even have a beer at the end of the day, who knows?
If your riding experience consists of the three lessons you took with an instructor who specializes in dressage, you are not the same caliber of rider as I am. Nor is your understanding of horses deeper.
When I was on my third lesson on the dudes at Mark Reynor Stables, I was not the same caliber of rider as um, well, help me here, because I don't personally know a dressage trainer who is the equivalent of my not-quite-successful-middle-of-the-road trainer status. But I'm guessing you get my drift.
Good grief, this post has wandered way off the trail. I mean, I ended up following a deer trail, fell down a gulch and am currently picking my way through it's rocky bottom, hoping somebody will show me the way out.
Next post, I'll try to get back to my original plan, which is explaining why we western riders do and say some of the stuff we do. In the mean time, let's face it, we all ride dressage -- even Parelli.