Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Natural Ride for A Natural Horse

Iceland likes to think of the Icelandic Horse as a "natural horse", one that is able to be left out in the pastures 24 / 7, raised in the herds with little interference.

This is fine, but what happens when the horses are then introduced to their riding careers?

Shoes are nailed on; boots are put in place on the fetlocks; icelandic-style saddles (which may be unbalanced / uncentered, too long, and / or too narrow) are put on; jointed snaffles are put in the mouth; and the mouth tightened by a noseband; rider sits to the weaker part of the horse's back; puts his weight on the reins and the mechanics of the snaffle come into play; and the whip is there for... whatever reason. The horse is held in frame, ventroflexed, and fighting the bit.

Pretty picture? NOT!

But this is what is taught at the icelandic-style riding schools, by the icelandic-style trained trainers, and supported in the show ring.

How natural is this?

Can't we take some inspiration from the Indians who worked *with* their natural horses, and took the time to ride *with* the horse and not against the horse?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shoes have, in no way, an effect on the horse. It's fine to go barefoot, but it's also fine to have the horses wear shoes. Think about if someone made you live your life barefoot? Shoes can also be used to correct problems, such as conformational issues that bring on pain or making a gait more even and four beated and allowing the horse's head to relax.

Whips are also okay to use, really. So long as you don't smack the horse to hell. Using a whip, you TAP. Don't SLAP. A lot of Icelandic people don't get this.

And it's okay to have contact that isn't abusive, once you have worked your horse up to that level. You have to first come into harmony with the horse, perfect your seat, and then gradually introduce contact, a little at a time, so the horse can build up muscle in his neck. This makes it less painful for the horse.

Actually, a lot of the more modern Icelandic Saddles have grown from being too narrow from several years ago to being really wide.

As for the bits, that is a lot harder. A lot of these horses are having those bits and that contact thrust upon them, therefore causing agony. No time to let them soften and lower their head. And most of these torture devices known as "tack" need to be banned, for good, in all breeds, not just the icelandic.

A lot of these horses would have horrible scores, especially the ones with their heads hyperflexed. In the more modern Icelandic style, a down head is preferred to an up one, but with collection.

I love the concept of this blog, but sometimes you can be a bit holier than thou about natural horsemanship. Yes, you should be in harmony with your horse all the time, but natural horsemanship, while it is a great practice that teaches connection between horse and rider, is not the only way for you and your horse to become one. Riding isn't natural at all in general. But we have to get as close as we can to it.