Horses have been a huge part of my life since I was twelve years old. I think my love them began much sooner, however. As a girl, I was always an animal lover. Rather than watching cartoons, I watched the Discovery Channel. To this day, I know a lot of random facts about wildlife. Horses always held a special fascination for me though. Like most little girls, I always dreamed of owning one; but my fascination went further. I loved reading Misty of Chincoteague and Black Beauty. I wanted to save mustangs, and rescue retired racehorses. All of this before I ever took formal riding lessons. Looking back, and knowing what I now know about horses, I think that they have always spoken to something within me. I was a bit of a wild child growing up – rebellious, strong-willed, feisty – and I still am today. Horses are much the same. We can train them, and try to control them with heavy bits, draw reigns, and other contraptions, but most will always hold on to their wildness. The more we try to snuff it out of them, the more fight back. Which is why so many people in the horse show world resort to drugs. There has been a lot of debate over the past few months about drugging horses and abusive bits and other aids. I find it very sad the lengths that people will go to for a colorful piece of fabric.
When we accept a horse’s wild nature, and choose to work with it rather than against it, we can create a true partnership. A bond that can last for years to come. Horses will do amazing things for us if we learn to work with them instead of against them.
The problem is though, that true training and forging a real bond takes time. Years even. So many self-proclaimed horse men and women will not take the time to really train a horse, and resort to unnatural methods because money and ribbons are more important.
What happens when the heavy bits come off? What happens when the effects of GABA fade away? You have a crazy horse that never really learned how to work with a human; a horse that will have behavior problems for likely the rest of his or her life. Because most horses will hold on to their wildness. You can try to control it with the over-use of aids, and you can try to numb it with drugs; but it will never go away.
I really hope that in my equestrian career, I can be an example that there is another way. I hope that I can inspire people that they do not need drugs or a lot of rider aids to get a horse to go well. They need patience. Trust. And understanding. Understanding that horses will hold on to their wildness, the wildness I have always found a kinship with, and learn to work with it rather than against it.