I loved horses as long as I can remember and according to my mom I saw horses everywhere. After years of asking my parents for a pony and riding lessons, I got riding lessons. I found a free lease pony just a block away. In the city! wasn’t that a wonderful coincidence that the only pony’s in the city were 500 meters away?
I loved my weekly riding lessons very much, but I had many questions that no one could answer. Some of them I still haven’t found an answer to. Questions like:
1. How come spurs are meant for ‘refinement’ and ‘lighter’ cues?
I still don’t understand it. If you look at spurs scientifically you know that if the point of pressure/surface decreases (spur versus leg), the pressure increases.
It does make sense that you don’t have to use as much pressure (if you choose to use pressure/release to communicate) with a spur than with your leg, but how does this ‘refine’ the aids for the horse?
How come the rider suddenly need to use more pressure when he gets more advanced?
2. Why do you have to learn to ride with ‘your seat’ if when you are advanced you get spurs?
The spurs are not attached to your seat but to the foot of the rider, a body part that you’ve been told for many years not to use on your horse. Honestly I have seen spurs more used on ‘lazy’, unresponsive horses than on sensitive, well trained horses that are willing to work for the rider.
3. Why do you get twice as many bits when you are riding higher dressage?
How is more bits, less? How can more bits be ‘more refined’ or give ‘lighter cues’? When you start to ride, you learn that you have to ride with your seat, not with your reins. When you get ‘advanced’ you suddenly need two instead of one bit? How is that possible? The bits I am referring to is the curb bit with lever action in combination with a bradoon.
Again, I see that the more lever action you have on a bit the ‘lighter’ you can be as rider, but how does this make the horse better? How does this contribute to the ‘Happy Athlete’ so many people call a dressage/performance horse? I just don’t get it. Unless, it (horse riding) is not about the horse…
Speaking about athletes…. I
f you want your horse to be a Happy Athlete, don’t you want him to be truly happy? Don’t you want what is best for your horse?
4 Why do people call a dressage horse a ‘Happy Athlete’?
They take away their freedom and lock them up 22 or 23 out of the 24 hours. How can that be a happy horse? I have only seen once in 40 years a ‘Happy Atlete’ in a pasture with other horses (Grand Prix level horse). Roomy group housing is #1 priority if you want to encourage natural behaviour and welfare. In other words: to make him happy. It is in the 3 important F’s: Freedom, Friends and Forage.
Speaking about forage: why don’t we give Happy Athletes a diet that is natural and suited for the horses digestive system? ‘Happy’ Athletes are usually given a starch rich (grains) and oil rich diet and without enough roughage (his natural diet). How can feeding a horse something his body isn’t really adjusted to, make him feel good and happy?
Most of the ‘Happy Atletes’ I have seen (except for the ones I saw in The Netherlands in a field) suffer from all kinds of stereotypical behaviours. How are they ‘Happy’ Athletes?
What questions do you ask?
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer online horse training courses to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that is FUN for both you and your horse.
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