Friday, April 9, 2010

' Un-learning '

' Mellon '
' Un-learning '
How many times over the years have you had to un-learn something with your training or riding practices?  So many of us were taught to do things one way only to discover later on when we became more knowledgeable that we had some appalling training in the beginning. It’s not easy to unlearn something you’ve been taught and have been doing for years. But in order to become better horse people sometimes things have to be rethought and changed. This is exactly what I had to do over the years as I progressed in my training with different horses.

Below are just a few examples that include either what I was taught or I saw done by so-called "experts" to horses in the name of training:
•    Arching your back and sticking your butt out while jumping or doing flat work
•    Riding with draw reins and pushing your horse up into the bit, thinking this was the way     to obtain collection
•    Dropping your heels but not putting weight into them, so “put your heels down” had no real meaning
•    Pulling a horses head around with the reins and pinning it to his side, because this is the way you taught a horse to bend - (I’ve also seen them tied head to tail and left in a stall overnight to “limber them up”)
•    Sliding the reins from side to side in his mouth (sawing on the reins, either lightly or with some force) to put him “on the bit” - and assuming that, just because his head came down and in, that meant he was "on the bit"
•    Treating each horse the same, with the same program, and expecting them to “get it,” not taking into account each horse has a different set of circumstances and personality and, therefore, training properly depends on the horse and his needs at the moment
•    Listening to “professional” trainers and taking their word as gospel because you were the lowly student who knew nothing and you were afraid to ask questions or have a confrontation and seem stupid
•    Not wearing a helmet while riding because, after all, you’re just schooling, you’re not at a show or anything
•    Skipping a lot of parts that go into training a green horse (or any horse for that matter) in order to make ‘em up quick and sell ‘em
These are just a few of the things that I have learned and unlearned over the years.  I feel that if I had had the opportunity to start out with a good trainer I certainly wouldn’t have to un-learn all the dreadful behaviors that were common practices way back when.  And unfortunately I feel some of these training movements are still in play today.

It annoys me that there are just not enough good trainers to go around.  I believe that we would all be better off if trainers/instructors would be required to receive some formal education (like real teachers) and be tested on their knowledge and then licensed.   Not that we should all adhere to the same philosophy of horsemanship, but there should be some minimum standards when it comes to safety, humane treatment of the animals and good, common sense basics.  There are so many dangerous people out there who may think that because they ride or have won a ribbon at a show they are qualified to be instructors. Well, I don’t think they are.
The ones I am the most concerned for are the children.  I’ve been at many barns where the parents are clueless and yet they are handing their children over to the “professionals,” who are kids themselves most of the time. This could lead to a very dangerous situation with perhaps catastrophic results.
I’d be interested to know how many practices you have had to un-learn over the years.  And also what you think about the unprofessional status in this country for trainers/instructors and if you think they should be schooled and licensed.

Until next time

Quote for Today
Equestrian activity teaches young ladies to cope with large, friendly, but dumb creatures - the ideal training for marriage.

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