Years ago, when I was learning Salsa dancing, it was the first time in my life that I understood things from the horse’s point of view. I hadn’t ridden in years by this point but it was through dance that I finally understood the horse that I had briefly owned about 10 years before.
When you dance the man leads, the lady follows. There are rules and prompts and when you dance with someone who is a good lead it is so much easier to dance well, not only that but you can dance way beyond the moves you already know because they know how to set you up for success. During my dance lessons I was dancing with beginners for the most part. At the end of each lesson there was a time for free dancing together to practise. There were those partners that gave good clear leads in the main and who were patient when things were going wrong. On the other hand there were those who not only didn’t give a clear lead but when things started to go wrong they became cross and even rough! Their assumption was always that it was my fault things were going wrong, not realising that what they wanted from me was totally unclear!
I finally understood that Tsar, my horse, hadn’t been deliberately ignoring my aids all those years before, it had been that I hadn’t been asking him properly. Such was his frustration that in one lesson, with one huge buck, he had thrown me off. I’d hit the floor before I even knew he’d bucked. I understand now that he had simply reached the limit of what he could tolerate with my shoddy riding. Having been on the receiving end of confusing aids and even some rough, frustrated handling myself, he suddenly had my every sympathy. My dawning realisation was very humbling indeed!
Pippsway of Classical Natural Horsemanship makes it very clear that if our horse isn’t performing well, we need to address whatever it is that we are doing to cause that to be the case.