Are you a RIDER or a PARASITE?
Years ago I was watching a woman riding her horse over fences. Each time the horse landed after a fence, he threw his head up and bolted. The rider would then jerk the horse around in a small circle, pulling his head around until it nearly touched her boot at which point she would smack him with her riding crop and proceed to make several circuits of the arena at a brisk trot while see-sawing the reins so violently the horse’s head wagged back and forth.
After the horse had received this “training,” the woman once again rode him to the fence; he jumped it willingly but upon landing, threw his head up violently and bolted. The woman screamed at the horse and went back into her “training” mode. She yelled something to her companion who was watching from the ground, about the new, stronger bit not working. Then she proceeded to jerk mercilessly on the horse’s mouth while spurring him relentlessly.
It baffled me that this obviously kind horse continued to willingly approach and jump the fence while receiving this treatment from his rider. It further baffled me that the problem, which was clear to me after the second jump, seemed to completely elude the self-proclaimed trainer and her companion: each time the horse landed, the rider lost her balance and snatched him in the mouth. The horse was trying to escape the pain she was inflicting on him by her incompetent riding. She had failed to develop an independent seat, and her horse was suffering for it.
I wish I had been brave enough then to speak out in defense of the horse but I was young and lacked the confidence needed to approach this intimidating woman. I watched her ride toward the fence and yet again make the same mistake, then punish the horse for her incompetence. “Go get the martingale!” she yelled to her companion, “I’ll make him keep his head down!” My stomach churned and I whispered a prayer for the horse before turning back to my work.
That woman was not a rider, she was a parasite. A parasite, by definition is something that attaches itself to a host and harms it. The parasite is completely oblivious to (or perhaps just doesn’t care about) the harm it is causing the host. It only takes but never gives. There is not a reciprocal relationship; the parasite is the only one that gets any benefit.
Parasites come in many forms:
Captain Cram and Jam – holds the reins as tightly as possible while relentlessly kicking and spurring the horse in an effort to “get him in frame”
Inspector Gadget – this person is always looking for the next great training gadget to force her horse to do what she hasn’t prepared him (or perhaps herself) to do. Training staples include harsh bits, a martingale (or training fork), draw reins and side reins
See-sawer/plane flagger/goat milker –these are the individuals whose hands never stop moving – jerking up, jerking down, to the side, etc. These are easy to recognize as they are the ones riding the horse with the gapping open mouth, chin tucked in chest (usually preceded by nose pointing at the sky), and/or head wagging from side-to-side. These parasites tend to flock to “magic bits” selecting increasingly harsh bits as their horse’s mouth becomes scarred and deadened.
The Know-it-all – Usually this is the person who either has had a few lessons and won a couple ribbons and therefore is a self-proclaimed trainer or can take the form of a person who has decades of experience with horses but has yet to learn anything
The Blissfully Ignorant Weekender – this person takes old Frank out of the pasture once or twice a summer and sits crookedly in the saddle for a 4 hour trail ride on an out-of-shape horse.
Conversely, a true rider is not afraid to do the work it takes to become a good rider. She puts in the years of work it takes to develop an independent seat, she seeks to understand the horse, when a “behavioral issue” arises, she first looks at herself for a cause, then considers the possibility of a physical issue with the horse and lastly looks for an actual behavior that needs to be modified. A true rider wants to build a relationship with the horse; she works to ensure the horse is happy to do his work. She also works to understand the horse’s physical capabilities and to ensure the horse is physically able to do the work it is being asked to do. She doesn’t rely on training gadgets as she understands 99% of the time such devices serve only 3 purposes:
1. Cover up bad riding
2. Cover up holes in training
3. Force a horse that is not mentally and/or physically prepared to do the work it is being asked to do.
So, ask yourself the tough question: are you a parasite or a rider? The next time you run into a “behavior problem” with your horse consider the whole picture: is it something you are doing (sitting off balance, a poor cue, bouncing hands, etc.)? Is your horse in pain? Have you physically and mentally prepared your horse to do what you are asking him to do? Are you trying to ride above your level? Are you riding more horse than you can handle?
I’m not claiming to be perfect. I’ve made (and continue to make) mistakes, I’ve subjected horses to unfair training practices; I’ve blamed horses for my shortcomings. BUT in more than 25 years I have never stopped learning. I keep an open mind and am always working to improve my techniques, looking for ways to teach the horse in a way she understands, and always working to keep my horse comfortable, happy, and glad to do her work.
Our horses are a gift and most of them give of themselves until it hurts and even then, keep on giving. Learning to ride in a balanced, independent seat without relying on training gadgets to achieve artificial results is the least we can do for our horses. Pay attention to what your horse is telling you, and you both will benefit. You will connect with your horse on the deepest level and, by being a rider rather than a parasite; you can add many sound and happy years with your horse!
9/30/14 -- WOW! The response to this post has been amazing! I wrote this in-part because I was feeling quite alone in my horse training philosophy so I am thrilled to see there are so many like-minded people in this world! If you like this post, you may also enjoy these similarly-themed posts found HERE
Thanks so much for sharing!
9/26/2014 01:08:40 am
This is a super article! Thank,you! Although I don't have a horse anymore and never rode dressage I do believe this is good advice for anyone working with animals! I had an Appaloosa I trained years ago. I began riding her with a bosel so that I wouldn't hurt her mouth as she was the first horse I had owned and trained. I began training, showing and raising dogs. These same basic principles apply to training them also! In fact, look to yourself first whenever you have a problem anywhere! Thank you!
9/27/2014 07:43:10 pm
Marie - true words and we could all learn from the article whether it too be with training animals, bringing up children or any other type of teaching .
9/29/2014 03:34:10 am
You're welcome, I'm glad you like the article. I have very little experience training dogs (just the two I've owned) but I can see what you mean as it is true in so much of life...take a look at yourself and you will often find the answer right there!
9/26/2014 08:25:45 am
70 years ago horses were a valued commodity with our farming, transport and industries. Now they are the play-things of amateurs who have more money than knowledge of horses. They are told by the ruling societies than anyone can "start" or "train" a horse; - but the truth is "starting" & "training" horses requires the expertise of a ballerina or a surgeon or a army general or an artist. - horses require talent and great unerstanding. Today's "horsemanship" is all geared so that people will enter shows which pay the god like societies wages. The horse's needs are very much second place to 'one-up-manship'. Its amazing how people will admit that they want to get "in the ribbons". The cruelty openly displayed at horse shows under the guise of "riding" is appalling.
9/29/2014 03:35:19 am
Well said, thank you for sharing!
9/29/2014 04:30:55 am
This is exactly why I stopped riding altogether. I had stopped competing years before, but one day I woke up and realized I saw a lot of horrible things done just as much in my own barn as at shows and I couldn't live with it anymore. I follow a non-riding philosophy now and I feel like a much better person for it - I feel like it is much better for the horse too. It doesn't make me feel less ashamed of having ridden horses poorly - esp. when I was younger - but at least I know I can't do any more harm. But mostly I walked away because I couldn't stand watching people yank on lead ropes or push the horse to do something it was clearly not ready for. I believe that any use of tack including the bridle are used only for means of control and if you need to use such thing then you have no relationship with your horse whatsoever. It's extreme but I just couldn't support (or stay quiet) any of the poor treatment I had seen of horses anymore.
10/3/2015 09:45:13 pm
I too feel this way- thanks for writing! Thought I was the only one, as a non-riding philosophy isn't often talked about.
10/4/2015 06:49:01 am
I do understand that there's a lot of bad in the horse world and I'm sorry that it's lead you to stop riding, but I don't believe that's the only anwser. I've made mistakes in my riding before, but as a junior rider who just wants to learn and better my understanding of horses, I always try my best to put the horse first. I do see mistreatment of horses at horse shows and although it's difficult to watch, I see it as by taking care of my horse the right way, that's one more horse that's not mistreated. And about the bridles, I can ride my horse around completely tackless, however for jumping a full course, that isn't always the best way for me. I find jumping with a bridle is safer for me and my horse (not saying its not safe to do it without because I know many people who can do it very well). I find this because while my horse will listen with out tack, she may get still get confused on my cues wilhile tackless and if I'm cantering up to a 3ft+ oxer using a bridle and reins to guide her rather than force her will lead to a safer outcome for me and my horse than without only because I find it's easier for her to understand what I want. My goal in writing this was not to talk down about anyone's preferences or ideas, just to try to show you that there are some riders who still have the horses best interest in mind. I hope that even though you've chosen to no longer rider, you still keep horse in your life because they really are wonderful animals. Have a good day:)
Ms. Deb B.
10/4/2015 09:14:18 am
Mrs. French, you are right! I completely agree with you.
9/26/2014 05:19:23 pm
i dont think the martingale part is fair!!! I have my horse in a martingale and it doesnt do much apart from stopping her pulling her head right up!! Its very loose and i have her on a snaffle as well!! And i use my inside leg and outside rein every 5-10 steps to keep my horse in an outline, shes always had her mouth open as well
9/26/2014 10:47:54 pm
That's the whole point Emily! Why is your horse feeling the need to throw her head up? Why does she open her mouth?
9/27/2014 06:13:06 am
The fact that your horse raises its head & opens its mouth speaks to what this article is about...looking at yourself and your riding to see what is causing the "symptoms". If you are riding correctly you will not need a martingale & your horse will not gape it's mouth.
5/15/2017 05:03:37 pm
2/13/2018 07:42:06 pm
I think when that martingales, draw reins, and side reins (i don't ever use side reins while mounted, only to lounge) are used correctly, they can do some good! It's just like bits - ideally, you would only want to use as much harshness as you NEED. My horse uses side reins because he is a draft cross and all of his power is in the front end, so he gets VERY heavy on his forehand. We just lounge him for 5-10 minutes occasionally (only before shows and on once a week, when my trainer excersizes him; I'm not allowed to use special equipment (another good idea! Trainers should teach lessoners to use equipment well, ect)) There is an arab mare at my barn who uses a standing martingale every time she's ridden (except at shows). It is loose enough for her to move her head freely in a frame, and she CAN toss her head, but it also keeps her neck stable. She's a lesson horse, so she has a variety of riders; sometimes its the rider and sometumes its the horse.
10/2/2014 09:23:43 pm
Don't forget the importance of regular dental work, Floating, your horse may have sharp points on the teeth that need to be addressed. Turning and stopping press on these points causing pain which in turn cause head shaking, head tossing and sometimes leaning of the head to one side. Check the stall for dribbled grain, hay that is quidded up and left on the floor and in many cases weight loss also. Find a good Equine Dentist!
10/1/2015 09:27:00 am
martingales in themselves are not a bad thing, correctly fitted as yours sounds to be, so don't worry you aren't being cruel, I think the point in this case is they were going to put in on and crank it down. which then makes it bad. a correctly fitted martingale doesn't interfere with the horses way of going when they are going correctly. George uses them and he hates gimmicks.
10/4/2017 09:00:49 pm
I agree a martingale is a helpful and common tool for hunters. Mime is very loose and basically just helps my young horse,stay more balanced. I am not anti-gader also. The problem lies when they are overused, in uneducated hands, used as a crutch to over fave your horse. I loved that my well rejoined dressage trainer introduced me to Vienna reigns when starting my fjord. He learned the basic concept "give to pressure" without any confusion or issue. They then came off and he went in a plain snaffle, nothing else, unless he needed a refresher every couple of weeks. Gadgets are tools that if they help us speak the same language and make training clearer for a green horse, the user shouldn't be shamed for it. Everything else in the article I agree sounds appaling!!! Luckily, it's been a long time since I've witnessed any "training of the sort".
9/26/2014 11:04:07 pm
The martingale part is the only part I disagree with. My mare is an OTTB and is currently in re-training in a full cheek snaffle.
9/29/2014 03:38:32 am
Yes, well said. The horse's trained by gadgets are recognizable by muscles in all the wrong places.
9/27/2014 01:12:53 am
The martingale part is true. You disagree because your horse is in a martingale and you're scared of being a "parasite" lol I too have ridden lots of horses in martingales but I also am an educated enough rider to understand WHY he is in a martingale, or I had educated enough trainers to tell me to do it and they knew why. Not every horse needs a martingale. If your horse isn't gapping its bit & quick to get off its forehand on the back side of a jump, you dont need a martingale. For me, this is a lot to fix in a horse, correcting the back side of a jump, and I too use a martingale on many horses to help the correction. But it is a tool. It does make an artificial correction that will present itself if you take the martingale off, and your horse DOES have a hole in their training. For me, its a problem not worth fixing. when the horse jumps confidently & does a good job, I dont want to reprimand directly after. And i like the martingale corrects him CONSISTENTLY so i dont have to be the meanie rider. BUT it IS a band aid used my many.
9/27/2014 01:18:50 am
And if your horse needs a martingale to flat around the arena, you ARE what this article describes ORRR you are a green rider (which is beyond okay , everyone starts there:) and your trainer has it on the horse to help you stay safe & learn. Martingales on the flat are for weak & hollow horses who aren't using themselves.
10/7/2015 03:48:36 am
9/27/2014 01:14:45 am
The martingale is a gadget and gadgets are used with lack of training like any other to manage a situation right or wrong. Just because something works does not make it right.
Great post! I was once (long ago) in a Pony Club exam with a rider that largely fit the description at the beginning. Her horse dumped her twice before I was given the mare in the jumping test. I noticed that the rider was hard on the mare's mouth, and landed in the saddle too soon. After 15 minutes of schooling, where I made a point of being light on her mouth and back, the mare began to soften. By the time I did the course (having been given extra schooling time by the exam panel) she was round and quiet. I even missed a spot and got left, halfway through - and was terrified that she would revert ... but she stayed soft and finished beautifully. By the time we got to the cross-country test, she reverted quickly to her old behavior under her regular rider, and dumped her for a third time. All bad behavior, that persists past one time, is learned ... and can be unlearned without gimmicks!
9/27/2014 03:46:51 am
Thanks for such a good post! Can i translate and publish in local horse page? this information needs to reach as many horse people as possible!
9/27/2014 04:05:19 am
Wonderful Article - as a freelance riding coach I get all of this from time to time - with the right attitude & plenty of patience & tact from us & super horses we can help these parasites
9/29/2014 03:40:52 am
Yes, but they must want to learn...not always such an easy find.
9/27/2014 06:13:03 am
This is a great article, thank you for sharing. Really makes you think and check yourself again and again.
9/28/2014 07:32:49 am
And why I have specialised in teaching the correct seat and aids for the last 45 years. And still so few sadly want to listen.
9/29/2014 03:42:28 am
Yes. That is partly what prompted the article at this time, I seem to be running into more and more people who don't want to do the work and just want "magic" results.
9/28/2014 05:43:41 pm
Excellently put. I couldn't have explained it any better.
9/29/2014 03:43:01 am
9/28/2014 08:51:32 pm
I admit I use a martingale on my mare, I would say my seat is independent the majority of the time but like you say everyone is always learning. I use it for the circumstances where e.g. I make a mistake and her response is to put her head up to resist and open her mouth. She was at a yard where they do everything from sawing, draw reins etc which taught me to agree with your opinion indefinitely and I have always put this behavior of hers down to that as back etc have never revealed pain. So I find the martingale helps to encourage her to drop her head (I am really light on the reins and don't have them short) as once her head is down I can get a correct contact and ask her to work from behind into it, however if her head is up a cannot do this as she just runs obviously out of balance which will not help the situation . I understand this is obviously using a gadget but for me it seemed the gentlest most obvious way for her, is this wrong? Is there anything else I could do to avoid this? She is very sensitive and it is what I've been instructed to do have however I competently agree with this article and really don't want to be a parasite as much as is possible so any advice kindly accepted :)
9/29/2014 03:29:50 am
Hi Sophie, I'm glad you like the article and it sounds like you are trying very hard to do what is best for your mare. It is very difficult to give training advice without seeing the problem and being there to help you work through it. What is true is when the horse is using her body properly (lifting back, pushing from behind, all body parts aligned either on the straight or in a circle) the horse will round into the bridle automatically. If your horse has a previous history with abusive training techniques from others, she is likely lifting her head out of fear of pain, which she receives if she hits the martingale. These horses can be harder to "fix" because you have to work past fear of pain from the bit. The training steps your horse needs really can't really be explained in a blog comment but you need to get your horse to the point where you can control her shoulder and her hip independently. For example, using your inside leg you would encourage you mare to step deeper behind while "catching" her with your outside aids, the inside rein being used only to help her keep her nose in front of her (not pulling, just guiding). As she learns to work from behind, the rest begins to fall into place. A martingale interferes with this process because when her head is up, she is getting downward pressure from the martingale...as the horse is trying to escape the downward pressure, she will hollow her back and throws her weight to her forehand which as I'm sure you know is quite opposite of what you want. The best advice I can give you is to find a trainer in your area (or another rider with the heart of a teacher) who opposes the use of gadgets (often a classic dressage rider is a good choice because gadgets are not permitted on the show grounds, at least not in the US and the principles I use to train horses to carry themselves are dressage principles. Having said that, not all dressage riders are giving their horses a good and fair ride. Many of them use the "cram and jam" method...a good tip is if your arms are tired, you're doing it wrong) and learn from this person. You really need eyes on the ground and a knowledgeable instructor to help you learn how to ride the whole horse. I wish I could do more but hopefully that helps a bit. You are aware of a problem and trying to find an alternative which puts you way ahead of many. Good luck!
10/7/2015 03:53:45 am
id love connections to natural trainers of classical dressage to help me with gaining an independent seat and learning to ride and help the horse collect from behind.
9/29/2014 02:08:36 am
Easier said than done but we have to keep learning and trying to read the horse's cues to get it right.
9/29/2014 02:13:45 am
A martingale is a training tool which can be effective at certain stages of a horse's learning. Obviously, it can be misused. My horse had a year of pain in his back while trainers told me it was his teeth. Finally I got him Xrayed and then injected in the soft tissue aroud his thoracic vertebrae. He is just now learning that it no longer hurts to do what I am asking. He still throws up his head and hollows his back and stops listening anticipated the pain he once had. The martingale is helping him lower his head and balance. He is developing the muscles on the upper neck and he's listening. I look forward to the time when I can discard it. I can release his inside rein more and more often and he can stay balanced. I can steady him with outside rein so he doesn't fall in on his shoulder. The habits he is developing are strengthening his body and his mind. When I competed Satureday without the martingale He did much better, only getting excited and trowing up his head a couple of times the whole day.
9/29/2014 03:32:08 am
I would have went up there and slapped the bitch, and knock her off the horse.
10/1/2015 01:22:36 pm
Unfortunately, that kind of person would probably just take it out on her horse. For a slap upside the head to work, the head has to have something worthwhile in it.
9/29/2014 04:45:53 am
I rode horses for 15 years - in practically every discipline - and I competed in Western showmanship and three day eventing. I no longer ride. I have since learned that any use of "aids" or tack like the bridle are means for control only and do not facilitate any true relationship with a horse whatsoever. Take three day eventing for example. So you have horses going around these courses, especially cross country, and the riders often wear spurs and carry crops. The riders also often use very severe bits in the horses mouths. This is at the lower levels and the upper levels. Think about what the horse is being asked to do by going over those massive jumps and complicated questions. No horse would do this willingly first of all and secondly, if you claim to have such a great relationship with your horse why would you ever need to use a whip or spurs at any point? Second of all, horses can die in this sport. The rider accepts this risk for the horse and demands he do it. It is sport and it is shameful. The horse has no say whatsoever in whether or not to compete. The use of the bit has also been proven to cause harm to the horse's mouth no matter what kind or how "lightly" used. That scared me so much when I found this research. I was sick to my stomach. I hate the mentality that "oh, it's a horse, he's bigger than me and I can't hurt him." It's not true. I'm not writing this to point out that every single rider or commenter here is terrible to their horses, but think about what you do/see at shows or your own barn. Even a simple yank on a lead rope is like a slap in the face to a horse. It's not respectful. I just hope one day people will wake up and stop using horses for "sport" and learn to have a real relationship with these amazing animals. I am still learning and I will never learn everything. I simply believe riding is no longer proper or the way to have any sort of positive relationship at all.
9/29/2014 06:41:10 pm
I am 66 & have been riding for about 15 years. Thinking I could ride I discovered not & that I was using my reins for my balance. That was a shock but I realised that was true & have regular lessons to improve my seat balance & hands & even though I am not perfect I think I am a lot better than what I first was. I love my horse who is 10 now & feel gutted that I could damage him in any way thats why I continue learning having regular lessons. I'm amazed at the people who say if you can walk trot & canter you don't need to have any more lessons thats so sad
9/30/2014 09:59:14 am
Reading this blog brought tears to my eyes. I too would have "knocked her off. I focus hard to ensure everything I do with my best friend does not cause him ANY discomfort and that he enjoys our time together as much as I do. It's paying off too. A big thanks to those who have helped me in this journey including all the comments here. What a wonderful opportunity we all have to make our horses lives the best they can be.
9/30/2014 08:25:31 pm
I loved reading this and was such a eye opener. I have been riding for 20 years and I never think am right, I still lessons and feel I always want to ride to how the horses and myself feel together. Don't get me wrong I look back and feel sorry for my 14:2hh gelding fell x who has put up with so much Crap from me thinking I could ride. Am grateful to him now for letting me still get on board. I feel I still have massive amounts to learn but am open minded enough to do so. So if I have parasite days to my horses for give me. Mummy is trying. And along with this I like to keep my boys backs checked regularly and teeth with saddle checks correct shoeing and we'll fitted tack I hope am giving them a good base. Xx
10/2/2014 01:04:31 am
Well said! Horsemen/women or horse owner... Big difference!
Cara Burgess-Effective Equitation
10/5/2014 06:47:39 am
So well said, this is very true and I love the analogy. Thank you for writing this article. Horses are used for our gains and enjoyment and there is far too much wastage within the industry caused by human error resulting in behavioural issues. Horses with severe issues are sent from home to home trainer to trainer and never really get understood and become labelled as 'bad'. And then sent for euthanasia. These are not 'bad' horses they are misunderstood and mistreated. I fully agree that before we blame the horse for something look at ourselves first and our own abilities. Once we do we usually see a difference, but it seems to be hard for lots to question themselves and find the answer. The way forward is to gain as much knowledge as we can about learning theory, biomechanics, rider biomechanics and to never stop learning. The horse will thank us for it by showing us no conflict, tension or behavioural issues. These majestic animals deserve the best form us. I'm currently study Equitation Science under Dr Andrew McLean and this has been an amazing learning journey that I recommend to all. Thank you again for writing and sharing this.
I decided, after watching a lot of other riders, and unhappy horses, i would do things differently for my horses. I took all the metal and gadgets they came to me with away ... and the shoes and the saddles .... now i use different types of bitless bridles , whichever stye that particular horse gets on well with, kindness, compassion and LOTS of groundwork ....my philosophy is simle.. if i wouldn't eat it , drink it, lie down on it or put up with it .. why should my horse ... and it work ... my latest boy is a full Shire gelding 17.1hh, 6 years old, been hunted, shown, x country, show jumped ..the lot .. HATES being bitted ... now ridden quietly in a cross under bitless, mostly bareback or solution treeless saddle and rhythm beads .. loves it !! Can stop, start, steer and negotiate kindly and effectively .. no problems ! Sorted ! Try the less is more approach folks .. the horse 'gets it' !!!
11/1/2014 10:15:34 pm
THANK YOU!!!!!!! dead on blog!
11/6/2014 03:33:07 am
I think it is very unfair to refer to training aids or 'gadgets' used only to 'cover up bad riding' or 'cover holes in training'. Gadgets like side reins draw reins and martingales IF used correctly by a knowledgeable person can be useful . For example, running martingales can be used on horses to prevent horses throwing their head up before a jump, the martingale will NOT pull the horses head down but will prevent the horse from throwing it's head up too far that it will jump the fence with its eyeline above the fence therefore jumping the fence at the wrong point or in a wrong shape . Unless the horse throws it's head up to an incorrect height (which a well schooled horse shouldnt) the martingale will do nothing at all . Top riders all around the world use these gadgets, are you going to tell them how much of a parasite they are? Is it really fair to generalise the use of training aids in a negative way? Noooope
11/17/2014 04:28:15 am
I appreciate your comments. If you go back and read the portion of the post you are referring to, you will see I said 99% percent of the time gadgets serve three purposes, thus allowing for the 1% of the time they are perhaps useful. No generalization here.
1/3/2015 12:33:06 am
It takes a lot of work and a good level of fitness to ride a horse in any discipline. I agree with the points you raise in this article. So many horses suffer through bad riding. We all are pushing through a learning curve and I am sure there are times I have banged my horse in the mouth or sat too hard on his back---but I never blame my horse for MY mistakes. Further, I don't punish him when he makes a mistake. Patience and kindness have gotten me this far down the road. I think it is part of the reason my horse willingly comes to me at the gate and looks forward to his work most of the time.
Amazing article!! Such a clear and direct "critic". I love the way you point out everything. I find funny that some of them are those kind of people who tell you that they '"love horses so much". I cannot do anything but laugh at it. I just has to saw the Captain Cram and Jam in my old barn. A child was riding the mare I used to ride with really harsh hands and short reins, and a whip, using the reins for his balance. That mare is so so nervous, always, and needs calmness because she gets afraid of everything. My trainer (who was there with me) and I were like "what the hell...".
9/28/2015 07:11:32 am
This is what sent me away from shows 20 some years ago! So hard to watch=/
9/28/2015 08:56:45 pm
How wonderfully you explained everything I want to fix about the equine field!!!!
10/1/2015 09:11:11 am
10/1/2015 05:59:38 pm
Beautifully written, insightful and educating article. Good job!
Susan B. Eckert
10/1/2015 08:20:57 pm
Hey Kim: I, too, have seen riders who were nothing more than "parasites". It's a good term and one that is fitting for so many riders who don't understand the gift of kindness/gentleness/love for an animal who will do anything to please you--if they just understood the concept of gentle, loving training. I have never found that unkindness to any animal an effective way to train them, except to make them fearful of you. That isn't training. That is ABUSE! I remember seeing one of the instructors at Watching Stables (way back in the day) being abusive to a horse he was riding (and saw him do it several times) and I was sick over it. Had I been older, I too, would have called that asshole on his shit in a heartbeat. Many people are just plain stupid and obtuse. They have no clue how to treat an animal and I have no use for them. If, as an adult, I ever come across someone abusing any animal, I would just hope I had my gun with me, because I would threaten him for sure. I have absolutely no tolerance for animal abusers and scare myself sometimes with the thoughts I get about what I would do to them. Scary, for sure. Good article. Thanks!
10/2/2015 07:39:19 am
This is mostly garbage! Any young or beginner ride is liable to make these mistakes. That's part learning. That's what coaches are for, to help you realize what you are doing wrong and a good riding peers will always help out when they see someone struggling. As for the equipment part. Just WOW! Draw-reins, martingales ect are there to help your horse when used properly. Yes there are lots of riders out there that could use some lessons, or doing some more reading on how to use equipment properly. I'm sure you yourself are have been or still are guilty of many of the thing you spoke about in your "article".
Yes, of course I was guilty of all of these things...that is how I come I share this information now, I've learned a better way. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about how your horse moves, where the power comes from, and what self-carriage truly is. If your coach or trainer is telling you that your horse "needs" special equipment to "help" him then I strongly recommend you look at other trainers. I spent many years riding just the front end of my horse, not understanding that while I was focusing on his "head set" (position, whatever), I was hurting him physically by not educating myself about how to ride the whole horse. I was lucky, a knowledgeable trainer found me and trained me for free for a couple years because she saw potential in me and my horse and was sad to see how I was riding him. Like you, I was angry and defensive at first but when I got out of my own way and listened, I learned that proper carriage has almost nothing to do with what my hands are doing. My current horse has never worn any gadget, she rides in a simple French link snaffle. I take up a soft contact, put my leg on her and she is there for me because she wants to be and because she is strong enough to do what I'm asking. Not because I forced her. Go see what else is out there...you might be surprised at the change in you and your horse. Good luck and happy riding.
10/4/2015 12:29:58 am
*Edit* ...I learned that proper carriage has almost nothing to do with what my hands are doing... (that is, as long as my hands are not interfering. Hands should be rather passive).
10/4/2015 06:27:06 pm
But this lady was "training" the horse.
5/9/2017 08:30:10 am
This is not written about a beginner who is learning, this is about those riders who refuse to learn. And she's not saying that draw reigns or martingales are bad, but that they can be used incorrectly. This article is about those riders who believe they can force the horse into whatever they want instead of actually training the horse, and or learning to ride themselves. If you are taking lessons and really trying to learn, this is not about you. :)
10/2/2015 10:45:00 am
Fantastic article! Also interesting to read the comments of people trying to justify themselves for using such equipment to cover the holes and gaps in their horses training. Can't wait to read more of your work!
10/3/2015 04:56:14 am
This article hits home for me. I have a spirited, big hearted, ever patient Appaloosa the I do eventing with. When I compete, I always have people telling me that I should wear spurs and carry a crop. I understand their reasoning, but through building a relationship with my horse partner, I know that he doesn't need either of those things and goes perfectly well in a double break snaffle and nothing more. He's happiest if I simply give him his space and show him his next jump!
10/3/2015 10:24:59 am
I have a seven year old Arabian gelding who was trained by a local trainer who shares the same philosophy you do regarding gadgets. He selected a particular bit that works well on Tux with minimal effort on the reins. I've been trying to sell my horse, but I've found so far that people who want to buy him ride him terribly. In fact I'm now only willing to show him to riders who understand each horse is different rather than the horse should adjust to their riding style (parasitic as it may be). There aren't many people even looking to buy horses in NM so I guess I'm going to have to be patient even though my health issues preclude me from riding/keeping him on a long-term basis. Any suggestions?
Jan, that is such a tough spot to be in. I too have found that inexperienced riders or riders which have poor equitation (or bad/harmful riding habits)have trouble with a horse who isn't used to being handled by a "parasitic rider." It can be doubly difficult for a sensitive horse (which many Arabians are, my gelding was quite sensitive).
10/3/2015 03:48:30 pm
I'm 18 and have been riding for about 5 years now give a little, and have been teaching for 2, however I do not have my own horse. This article I think beautifully sums up the difference in riders. However it could also be used as a check method for yourself as you ride. I've often noticed when reading things like this that I use my hand I much in one particular movement however don't use my body enough in another. Thus I could use the parasite method to check each part of my body as the horse and I continue to learn to make sure everything is aligned correctly from my head to then horses legs. I just wanted to say that I think anyone should read this article as I've seen many people who have there own horse act as parasites and not even care while I've dreamed horses since I was very little. Thanks for posting it
You're welcome and thank you! I absolutely agree, it is a good reminder for all of us. I have a bad habit of collapsing my left side when doing lateral work and boy does my horse let me know. She binds right up, gets stiff, shortens her stride and lifts her head. As soon as I make the correction in my own position, she straightens right up. I imagine there are many riders who would get out the spurs and the draw reins to "fix" her but I know it's me :) She keeps me honest! Keep up the good work!
8/10/2016 12:16:57 am
I'm leasing an older horse and I use a side pull halter to ride. I also have a crop to wake him up if he needs it. His owner uses him sometimes with a bit, spurs and standing martingale because she says he can be headstrong, even though she also claims he is always easygoing, good with kids, etc. With me he is always kind of lazy like that. She used him in a parade last weekend and he acted all "hot", prancing around, trying to bolt, etc. I'm wondering why- could it be that he got used to not having all that gear put on him? I felt like maybe I had ruined him somehow with my gentle riding? I've ridden many years, took a long break, and have been leasing this horse for a year almost. Thanks for any insight!
Hi Anna, Thanks for your question!
5/6/2017 04:10:55 pm
Wonderful article. I once reported a professional rider for doing exactly what you described in the jump training. She was doing this on a cross country course, in public and in defiance of my direction to cease. (I was officiating.) When the ground jury man came back to me he said he found her behind her float, whipping the horse mercilessly. I don't think she learnt her lesson though. I have seen her continuing with similar behaviour since.
5/10/2017 10:54:59 am
I agree with 99% of this. I don't agree entirely with the piece about martingales--at least not running martingales, which I assume is what you're talking about, since you called it a training fork. I've never seen the purpose of a standing martingale (or tie-down, in Western riding) beyond forcing a horse to adopt an artificial headset. Obviously, several people have already mentioned been dissatisfied with your argument about martingales, but I didn't see anyone use the actual, legitimate argument, which is that, if properly fitted and used appropriately, a running martingale is used to assist the rider with controlling a stronger horse at a faster (cantering/galloping) pace, without the need to resort to harsher bits--OR forcing the rider into a defensive or combative seat, which could throw the horse off balance and/or cause unnecessary and painful pressure/bouncing on the horse's back. This--usually--is where the PETA-types argue that if your horse is trained "properly" then it should ALWAYS respond to the SLIGHTEST pressure on the bit, and a good, humane rider with a well-trained horse should never have an issue slowing a horse down. But that's just not reasonable--and frankly, it's unfair to both horse and rider. A horse is a living, breathing, powerful prey animal with a mind--and emotions--all its own. Riding a 17.2hh cross country machine around an 8 minute course, attacking 4.5 foot solid fences at a gallop...I'd like to know that if--for my safety, AND the safety of my partner--I come to a question where I really, REALLY need him to slow down and pay attention, it doesn't matter how excited he is, how much he wants to get over that next jump, that I can apply pressure and have him respond appropriately. And sometimes that's going to require a martingale. I don't think it's abusive, I don't think it's indicative of a bad rider or a poorly trained horse, it's just life. It's a part of my tack that I put on for jumping because God knows I'd rather have it there and not need it, then be heading for an 8 foot bank onto a downward sloping hillside and suddenly, my horse is super excited about whatever and doesn't want to sit back and wait for the jump to come to him--and not have it.
5/10/2017 12:06:48 pm
Excellent article, very well written and full marks to you for saying what a lot of us have been thinking LOL! I am a trainer and I see people go to others to be taught in a very insensitive way (for both horse and rider) and I wonder why they do this? Quite often it is peer pressure or the "trainer" can market themselves very convincingly. If what you are doing takes the horse out of the horse, makes you miserable and injures your equine friend, then you need to Stop! There are people out there who can show you a kinder, more sympathetic way of riding, you simply need to look.
I like this post...it speaks so many truths!!
5/13/2017 01:53:51 am
i really liked that
Great article! I shudder at the rides before I understood, truly understood, my responsibility to my horse. To be all I ask of him and more - fit, attentive, prepared, knowledgeable and seeking collaboration. Our rides improved when I stopped asking my horse to listen to me, and I started listening to my horse.
5/17/2017 10:09:46 am
I had a similar experience. Watched in horror as a person I knew, and she was a judge, thrash and thrash the daylights out of a pony that was tied up tightly, with a lunge whip because he had not won his class at the show that day. He had by then no idea what he had done wrong. I should have reported this incident and don't know why I didn't. Judge went on later to judge at HOYS. can you believe it.
I love your article, and as beat-to-death as the whole martingale discussion may be, I felt compelled to add one other comment about this particular "gadget" or "tool" or whatever you wish to call it, that may very well only further your point about it.
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9/21/2022 12:02:28 am
I adore your statement that the horse was attempting to flee from the suffering because the rider was riding incompetently. My daughter is enthusiastic about riding horses. I'll make sure to get quality, specific reins for the horse so that it doesn't suffer, and I'll send my daughter to a class so that she can ride skillfully.
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Cheryl L. Eriksen, MSW, Equine Enthusiast, EAGALA groupie and writer of interesting, educational and entertaining blog posts!