Ed­i­tor’s Note

Practical Horseman - - Features -

My 8-year-old daugh­ter is learn­ing to pick out my horse’s feet. The chal­lenge is that he is 21 years old and when he first picks up his hoof, he tucks it up into his body. Then he takes a few sec­onds to let it re­lax back to where she can work on it. My daugh­ter doesn’t un­der­stand that he’s stiff and just needs a lit­tle time to get com­fort­able. In other words, she needs to lis­ten to what he’s telling her.

Read­ing this is­sue, I was re­minded of the im­por­tance of lis­ten­ing to our horses many times. The most ob­vi­ous story is in grand prix jumper rider Lau­ren Tisbo’s pro­file (page 28). “I guess some peo­ple might say I go to ex­tremes,” she says about her will­ing­ness to try un­usual equip­ment on her horses, in­clud­ing a rac­ing sad­dle and a bri­dle with no head­stall, to make them happy and get the most out of them. But to me it seems she is re­ally lis­ten­ing to what her horses are telling her they need and fig­ur­ing unique ways to com­ply.

In our sto­ries with Holly Hugo-Vi­dal (page 22) and Olympians Anne Kursin­ski, Beezie Mad­den and Laura Kraut (page 34), there is a lot of dis­cus­sion about mak­ing sure your horse is re­spon­sive to your aids, and a big part of that is lis­ten­ing to him. When you want him to go forward, “Ask and take your leg away,” Beezie says. If the re­sponse is cor­rect, he will go along in self-car­riage un­til he needs a re­minder. If it isn’t cor­rect, both Holly and Beezie review the se­quence of stronger aids to get the ap­pro­pri­ate reaction. Sim­i­larly, about de­vel­op­ing con­nec­tion, Anne says, “I feel his mouth. When he stretches down, I give. … As he ac­cepts the con­tact, I give.” She must lis­ten to her horses to know when to give.

In this month’s Jump­ing Clinic (page 12), Ge­orge Mor­ris dis­cusses what seems to me to be the ul­ti­mate in lis­ten­ing: the au­to­matic re­lease—or jump­ing out of hand—where, as the horse jumps a fence and stretches his neck, the rider gives. “What the horse takes, the rider gives. Not more, not less,” Ge­orge says.

So while en­cour­ag­ing my daugh­ter to lis­ten to my horse as she picked out his feet seemed at first like a small thing—I’m sure I said it in an off­hand way at the time—I re­al­ize that it’s a skill she will use through­out her life with horses.

Take care.

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