Horsework

Everyone knows me to be affiliated with horses. Mostly because I revert to doodling them when I can’t think of anything else to draw, but many know that I have been riding for quite a few years now. But, I don’t know if some can see that I see it as more than a hobby. I don’t treat it frivolously, though I’m not out at the stable as often as I’d like to be. I fear that people don’t think I take it as seriously as I do. I’m not too good with answering questions on the spot, so I stumble through a lot of conversations. I think it gives people the idea that I’m terribly aloof, but I do see and understand. In any case, if there are only a few things that can get me excited, one of them is horsework.

I realize I shouldn’t be saying these things while I’m directing potential internships to my site, here, but I would have to say that horsemanship is at the top of my list of things that I love to do. 

So what do I want to do/be in terms of my horsework? I hope to be a quiet horsewoman: one of dignity and respect; with a presence of feel. For clarification, “feel” is how I am being taught to read a horse: basically its learning to listen to how the horse is moving in order to know how the horse is thinking both in and out of the saddle. It sounds obvious, but doing this demands quietness. You have to let the horse talk, but not overpower, and they do this in the smallest of ways. Knowing the feel and the “try” of a horse is a practice that takes years, and something that I have just started. Bill Dorrance is the man that understood this best, and he penned his knowledge in the book called “True Horsemanship Through Feel”. Reading it is easier than living it, and this is intrinsically difficult for me because, as much as I don’t want to be this way, I am not a naturally quiet person. Even though I may be introverted, I am opinionated, and I consider myself too harsh. This may be why I am so drawn to the quiet horseperson, and why learning Feel and Try are probably one of the best things for me. In the future, I want to be like Bill Dorrance, or my trainer, Aaron, (who knows and is teaching me Feel and Try). These men were/are standing stones; relics of cowboy culture and riding methods. It seems to be a dying breed, or at least a rare one, but I want to become a relic. Other Aaron, I haven’t met someone who I respect more in the horse world on every single level of horsework. I wish I could have met Bill Dorrance, because I would have respected him just as much. But what am I getting at? I want the confidence, dignity, eye and knowledge of Bill Dorrance, gained through Aaron. I want to be able to find Feel and see Try; its akin to reading a horse’s mind. Some might call this “horse whispering”, but its a conversation; there is a back-and-forth going on. Beyond gaining Feel, Try and quietness, I want to be able to teach these things to others. Not only teach Feel and Try, but to teach my other interest: reining. Reining is a really lovely outward communal expression of all the skills penned by Bill Dorrance, but the basics are applicable to any horse in any discipline. Therefore, to become any sort of credible reiner, I have to know the skills I am being taught by Aaron, which are the same skills in Dorrance’s book: True Horsemanship Through Feel. What I am learning forges a connection between horse and rider. If a rider has that connection, and maintains it, what the rider wants the horse to do comes naturally. Aaron explains it this way:

When I’m at a show, and I’m warming up, I don’t care about loping circles or framing up. I work on flexing, and all small, basic things. Then he’ll know I’m there to meet him, and he can focus on me. If he is focused on me alone, and if we maintain that connection, I don’t have to worry about if he’ll frame up or not, because he’ll do it regardless.

How simple this seems, and yet, gaining the quietness and eye to feel and cultivate the connection needed takes time, hard work, and discipline. I want to attain the knowhow and skill to achieve that connection.

Horses think so quickly and move so subtly. It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it, and I almost get emotional when I see or feel it. I’m still learning how to gain a true, prolonged connection, the basics of how horses ought to move, and how they think, but even with the little knowledge I have now, I can only imagine how much more there is to learn and understand. If that doesn’t get any horseperson excited, I don’t know what will.