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Equine Partnering: If you Have a Brain, does that Make you a Brain Surgeon?

Lauren Woodard

Now, we all know the answer to this one! However, the theory of the question applies to the horse issue too. If you have a horse, does that make you a horseperson or rider? Just like the top question, the answer to this second question is a resounding, emphatic NO!!! with lots of exclamation points. Unfortunately for the horse, many people either haven’t considered the question or come up with the wrong answer. Wouldn’t you just love it if your surgeon said, “I know it’s in this head up here, so I’ll just make a cut here and a drill hole here.”

In addition, would you want someone who had seen someone (maybe on TV) perform a surgery on you or a family member? Is “I saw Pat Parelli do this at a seminar” valid. Because you saw Pat, does that mean you “do Parelli.” Again, a resounding NO. Seeing Pat or any of the other natural horsemen play with horses should cause you to re-think your approach and handling of your horse. Make you ask, how can I learn to do that and then practice, practice, practice and analyze the results. Waving a stick at the horse’s hindquarters doesn’t mean diddly if you’re out of position so your horse doesn’t understand the intent or if he isn’t inclined to respond properly, i.e. moving his front feet, etc. or a multitude of other possibilities. Since you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s difficult to see where you’re messing up. Get someone who does know!

The time you spend with your horse is too valuable to ‘do it yourself’ and waste 10 – 20 years on trial and error when the answers are easily available. You don’t have to commit the rest of your life to paying someone for lessons. However, it will get you on the right track and you will enjoy your time with your horse so much more because of the partnership you have gained.

A new student once asked me who I ride with. At first I didn’t understand the intent of the question and had to probe a bit. She would ride her horse out on trail or ‘around’ with some friends, but didn’t like riding by herself because there was ‘nothing to do’. After I understood the question better, my answer was simply, ‘My horse!” While I enjoy the occasional outing with a friend, I prefer to ride with my horse and there is no end to the things we can come up with to do.

I also met a woman the other day who told me that she was 64 and was getting too old to ride, so her horses were now retired. I asked why that was necessary. Her answer was, “They’re warmbloods, I ride dressage” Annnnnnnnnndddddd…? “What does that have to do with anything?” I asked. Her answer, “You wouldn’t understand. They’re huge horses. They’re very strong. And at my age that’s what you do. They’re too strong once you get a bit older.” She never asked what I do.

I’ve ridden warmbloods and Thoroughbreds and dressage (which is really highly refined horsemanship) most of my life. Partnering up with your horse is the most wonderful experience. I cannot help her as she is convinced that she knows….So, the message is — Ask yourself what you really know. Look at the results that you get when you ask him something. Evaluate your relationship with your horse. There is NO END to the learning. Keep going, get HELP, ENJOY MUCH!

Lauren has been teaching for 30 years. She has been riding and learning about horses for 45. She showed hunters and jumpers on the 'A' circuit in the east. Studied dressage and lived on a 1000 head cattle ranch for years. She has been working on her equine partnering for 10 years and can be reached at 480-951-1546 or