After seeing a post on Facebook, I felt a need to touch on the subject of fine horsemanship in the equestrian world. The article that first caught my attention was posted by the AQHA stating new rules allowing judges to disqualify exhibitors for equipment or attire that gives an unfair advantage. The main point of the new rules seems directed toward the use of magnetic devices. Those rules can be found at the AQHA website.
These new rules raised some questions. Has winning become so important, we are willing to compromise horsemanship? As an equine professional, do we teach showmanship for the win or horsemanship for the win? Winning as a showman or winning as a horseman are two totally different views. General showmanship is defined as a theatrical producer or someone that has the ability to present something in an attractive manner. Winning, as a showman is simple – get the prize. Be first in your class.
Defining horsemanship is a little more difficult. Everyone has a little different view on fine horsemanship. The general definition of horsemanship is advance knowledge of horses, with the needs and well being of the horse being of the most importance. Horsemanship is taught, passed down from mentor to student. Winning as a horseman may not be getting the prize or being first in your class. Winning is what you make of it: perhaps a personal best, having correct lead departures and changes, proper form over every fence, or correct position during your level test. Winning as a horseman or woman comes in many forms when you are riding for your horse and not a prize.
More and more, it is evident that shows are full of showman and not so many people are working to achieve fine horsemanship. This is true regardless of breed and discipline.
For any horse enthusiast, there is a wealth of information available to better the horseman or woman. There are many routes to take, find a professional for lessons and coaching. Make sure to do some research and find a professional that has a resume that fits the goals or views that fit best. Maybe pick up a book like “Why Do Horses Sleep Standing up?” ,“Evidence-Based Horsemanship”, or “How Do Horses Think?” Plenty of books are available for any equine enthusiast. The industry is also having a technological boom with numerous online video tutorials from leading professionals for every level, breed, and discipline. A few of these sits are: VirtualHorseHelp.com, GoHorseShow.com, and CompetitorCentral.com.
My fellow equestrians, let’s not be a theatrical producer or showman/woman, but rather let’s strive for knowledge, patience, and dedication to our equine companions. Let’s put away the magnetic devices and other gimmicks and train for the sake of the horse. To make a better rider, makes a horse better. Don’t be discouraged, don’t give up, and don’t fall into the “quick fixes”. Remember horsemanship takes time and patience, not only toward the horse, but also inward toward yourself. Success in the show ring is directly related to the dedication in the practice pen. As an equestrian, remember the words of Bob Avila, “When it comes to horsemanship knowledge and ability, everyone starts out equal, at zero. How far a person goes from there is entirely up to that person. Winning is what you make of it”.