Monday Musings on Classical Horsemanship- by Maarit Welling - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Having studied the Art of riding for many years I have become intrigued with concepts and ideas over the centuries.  Not just following the band,  so to speak,  I have wanted to study the art more profoundly, making discoveries on a very lonely road reaching out for lightness.

Lightness meaning the horse responds with the lightest of aids, and finally in 'savant' Horsemanship, we may discover he responds to only the slightest indication.

Studying in depth the art of riding is not easy, as it requires all the human qualities that are scarce today like empathy, humility, honesty and a fervent desire to improve so much in riding that one transcends from purely mechanical procedures to an art form, however elementary in its presentation.

There is great development of the human spirit in the art of riding.

There have been Masters who have paved a way, through diligent practice, principals which remain with us today.  Unfortunately many Horsemen, not without the desire to learn better skills have little knowledge of the history today.

There are of course some teachings which have been continued to the present day,  but methods that gain glory to the riders at the expense of the horses own welfare are common.

In a wonderful world of new innovations we must,  I believe, learn also from its history,  enabling us to make the steps forward so as not to lose sight of to the whys and how's of true Horsemanship.

A great Master Jean St. Fort Paillard, of classical riding believed there are different classifications to the differing types of riding.  He classified that we ride either empirically or rationally.

Empirical riding can break down into two sub sets: ' Instinctive empirical ' and ' Methodical empirical '.

With Instinctive Empirical one learns to ride on many horses in differing landscapes to acquire the balance in the saddle and the feel to communicate in order to control his movements. This is of course limited as it lacks the sophistication of learning based on studying the theory of riding. 

The Methodically Empirical rider is one who drills his horse in many patterns daily in the hope of one day of 'arriving' as a fully trained horse and rider.

This is often the case where riders remain at a basic level of understanding the intricacies of riding that they never really progress further along, either thinking they are slowly progressing or that they just haven't had the right horse/instructor to help them achieve their goals.

This then becomes grounds for a lack of advancement of skill, thereby making the justification possible of attempting training with the use of force and coercion to ' make ' the horse comply.

Horses, being sentient, will usually try and escape in any means at their disposal like rearing, bucking or worse, becoming numb to any indications by the rider. Seeing a horse that performs movements without any enjoyment of his physical being is a sad spectacle to behold.

Sometimes however, riders do make it to the top through pure talent of horse or rider or the combination of the two, and therefore others learn from their methods that this must be the way to train a horse.

With further study into the art of Horsemanship one does have a greater chance of  ' arriving '.

I would sincerely hope there are riders out there who have the temerity to learn from the history as well and not just the small quotations passed on from time to time, and the dogmas which have overtaken any questioning riders may have had.

They are often just told what to do without ever understanding the whys and how's accepting quite blindly how to deal with their horses.
Equitation is fascinating as a study as the sand beneath you shifts constantly as the skills and understanding develop.

With a fervent curiosity you may be subjected to be forced into conformity dictated by political correctness.

The Masters of the past had the ability to be innovative and change what they were doing from day to day as they explored further into the depths of the minds and physical bodies of their horses.

Such is the study so alluring that there is always something to learn, something to aspire to.

Maarit Welling

About Maarit:

I'm a wife and mother born in Finland immigrating to Australia as a young child.

My passion for equestrian knowledge is a life long journey. Having learned horse riding in outback Australia in different disciplines I have come to appreciate the differences in each sport.

I know what it feels like to have a really good horse under me.

My horse "Sooty" has paved the way for my desire to learn more about horses. His sometimes very difficult nature taught me not to use any unfairness and to deeply respect the horses being.

His generosity has enabled me to train to FEI level and I am forever grateful to have him in my life.

I enjoy Zen and all that nature has to teach me.




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