I know, what a surprise! The arrival of the car brought the downfall of horses for transport? Well, for most people. But that was just the beginning. With the advent of machines like cars and motorbikes for transport, tractors for farming and machinery for war rather than horses, we needed fewer horses and fewer horsemen. Yes, yes we know this but, like I said, this was just the beginning.
In this article, I will be talking about horsemen but, by horsemen, I don’t just mean men – I also mean horsewomen so, for the sake of fewer words, horsemen is not gender specific, ok? After the machines took over, there were a lot of horsemen still out there and they wanted to keep the art of good horsemanship alive. Some focused on making sure we didn’t run out of horsemen or horses in case there was a war and we needed our horses again, so they developed sports rewarding the movements that a war horse would need; some wanted to keep the good horsemanship that was used on farms alive so they focused on developing sports that rewarded good farm skills like working cattle, plowing and even just showing the great movement of a well-bred work horse.
These horsemen were caring people who came from a time when working with a horse was a must. The less effort you had to put in to work your horse and still get the best result was a part of life as no one wanted to be fighting with their farm horse every day or trying to get their war horse to stop and go in the right direction. When these horsemen and horsewomen had trouble with a task or they saw somebody who needed help or a tip, they would share their knowledge and I am sure this was the whole purpose of the sports we have today. What they didn’t foresee, or even imagine, is how scarce horsemanship skills would become and how tightly competitors would hold onto their knowledge or how focused on winning people would become. They didn’t even think that way because a horseman always puts the horse before the goal and a horseman will always help a fellow horseman in trouble. By that I do not mean force their opinion onto someone but simply offer it. So, what happened?
We are human and we have been doing what humans do. We saw our new goal and went for it; we went for the ribbon, we went for the trophy and, over time, the old horsemen passed away. Some carried on the skills but horsemen were becoming an endangered breed as it was getting harder for the horse trainer to find work and fewer people want to learn the art of horsemanship. However, the demand for trainers of a sport and sport experts grew until they far outnumbered the horsemen who taught people and trained horses using skill not force, principles not rules.
But here we are today, in a so-called self-aware stage of our human evolution. We no longer have to get our horse to plant the crop, we no longer have to go to war on our horse, we don’t even have to win that ribbon. We have options. We have options thanks to the people who have gone before us. Now we have new options in front of us, we have the option to do the morally right thing by the horse. We have the option to give back to the horse and don’t you think the horse has earnt the right for us to turn the tables and give back after they have given so much to help our evolution?
How can we give back? How about we start with the way we train our horse? What about if we avoid pressure and focus on the good deal for the horse? How about we give them options in training and give those reins more often and, most of all, remember it is supposed to be enjoyable for both of us. Being a horseman is a 2-way trail so, how about we give more than we take. In short, focus on your horsemanship and make being a horseman your goal and, who knows, that ribbon might just be the bonus you get for keeping horsemanship alive.
This article presents my views on how the lack of horsemanship came about but how we got to this problem really isn’t so important. What is important is how we can improve from here and I feel sharing good horsemanship and sticking to principles that put the horse before the goal and before our own agenda is the answer. If you would like to be part of the regrowth of our horsemen/horsewomen, then keep your focus on developing your skills, avoid force and mechanical means to train your horse, and share with friends as often as you can and then, maybe, we can turn this horse world of ours the right way up.