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Good Horse PersonA friend of mine walked into a butcher shop in a small town on the way home from the National Dressage Finals.

The butcher saw they were travelling with horses, and boasted that he used to ride when he was younger. There was a local pony club day on in the town that weekend and the butcher went on to complain that ‘riders these days’ don’t do anything, they just sit there and look pretty. He said that dressage riders were the worst.

My friend was very excited!

“Isn’t it wonderful that people think riders can sit there and look pretty while the horse does all the work? Ultimately, isn’t that what good horsemanship is all about?”

A good horseperson works quietly with their horse, giving signals that only other good horse people recognize. They see potential problems with horses and easily fix them quietly, efficiently and without fuss.

Good horse people are the ones who get on their horses at competitions and work them quietly. They may walk and trot for a while; bending and flexing their horse to remind them of the exercises they do at home. A good horse person may move away from the general warm up area, allowing their horse to settle in a quieter environment. They have a plan for the day that may include training their horse without necessarily wining the event. They always come home with a better-trained horse than the one they left with.

When they are training a horse, good horsemen takes the time to understand the horses’ point of view. They are not bullies but they are the able to gain respect.

Today I saw a horse ready to walk off the edge of a ramp when backing out of a horse float (trailer). The person handling the horse simply flexed the horse’s head towards the edge of the ramp, encouraging the horse to swing their rump the other way towards the middle of the ramp. Problem averted.

There was no fuss or bother or letting everyone know what they did. This person simply fixed a potential problem and continued to unload the horse safely. A lot of people would not have understood the correction.

A good horseman has developed a sense of timing. They feel the right time to deliver an aid and the horse understand what is required of them. If the horse is confused then they quietly try to understand from the horse’s point of view. They gain trust one step at a time and are happy with a minutest of improvements.

The next time you are around a few riders, have a look for the best horse person. They probably won’t be the ones yelling at their horses or making a big deal out of a little mistake.

There is a good chance that you may not even notice them at first, although you may notice the horse they are riding, the way the horse is moving and their horses’ happy attitude. The best horsemen are usually the ones the butcher would say are ‘just sitting there while the horse does all the work’.