The Tao of Horsemanship: See

Jian.  To see.  

“Without observation, learning is impossible.”

One of my great trainers from my early years had an impeccable talent for showing her students that there is more to learn than just on top of the horse.  At horse shows, she encouraged us to watch.  Watch our course before we compete, try to predict where our highs and lows may be.  Watch our competition, learn from their mistakes and take note when they succeed.  Watch the top riders, observe how they school their horses, watch how their team works; how the grooms tend to every detail of the horse and rider before entering the ring.  She taught us to pay attention to all the tiny details that the professionals were made of and how important they are to us.

I have found watching my peers a great asset to competition, but my favorite observation is simply that of the horse.  Now that I am no longer at a breeding farm, I unfortunately don’t get to see the babies and the broodmares and ‘toddlers’ (as I like to refer to 2 and 3 year olds) interacting together.  Horses communicate through body language and I think it’s important for us to try to understand their language as best we can.  I think horses adapt quicker than humans, and therefore have been able to pick up on our language much quicker, but I think it’s important when learning how to understand your horse to be able to ‘see’ what he says.

I think people often misinterpret what their horses are saying.  Many times, they assume they are scared when in fact, they are just bored and decided to have a little fun with us.  As a result, a horse gets coddled for being an ass.  Some people think their horses are cuddling when they are really asserting their dominance; a behavior that is many times taught to a young horse who grows up to be a 17 hand pushy monster.  “But my person thought it was cute when I was two!”  On the other hand, I see many horses being punished for behaviors when they really just need more clarity, or confidence.

So with this entry, I urge all of you to not only learn from you peers, but take a second look at your horses.  Study them inside their stalls and out.  Learn their body language.  Don’t just imply human behaviors on them.  They have a far more instinctual way of thinking and behaving and it can be enlightening to learn these behaviors – as well as learn FROM them.

Previous Entry: The Tao of Horsemanship: Follow


All ‘Tao of Horsemanship’ entries on this website are inspired by the book “Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony” by Deng Ming-Dao.



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