Why Horsemanship is Not (Just) About the Exercise

“Nothing is boring if you are aware of it. It may be irritating, but it is not boring. If it is pleasant the pleasure will not fail so long as you are aware of it. Being aware is the hardest work the soul can do, I think”.

Something Ursula Le Guin said, likely about the process of writing and making art, I’m not 100% sure. It rings true to me on the level of “doing” horsemanship and reading horses as well.
So often I feel we think horsemanship is about the exercise. We look for one, then another, then another exercise – perhaps more for ourselves than for our horse, to keep busy or to keep ourselves from being bored, or just because we are used to thinking quantity over quality.
More is not always better.
People tend to have a shorter and shorter attention span, always looking for the next thing. As if horsemanship could be about crossing things off on your To Do-list.
In the end the horse needs to feel we’re doing it with him and for him, not to him for our own sake.
This sometimes means you might need to do the same sequence of steps, or manoeuvres, over and over again, but each time with more awareness of what your horse needs. Once you get into this, it isn’t boring.
It’s very hard to teach, because the prerequisite, I think, is the willingness in people to choose to be present. You cannot ask this of a person. Awareness comes with time and might take years of training yourself to be present, but choosing to want to be there with and for your horse is a first step. You can choose it any day.

Photos of Lieve & Sundae, both being present and really getting somewhere in their partnership.

Photo Credit: Mirka Rueda Photography