Horse riding is certainly a popular pastime here in America, with over 7 million horses nationwide, supporting millions of businesses and jobs that contributes $122 billion annually to the economy (https://horsesonly.com/horse-industry/). Animal welfare concerns are on the rise, as are pressures from certain lobby groups to end riding and horse ownership altogether, so it’s increasingly important for us to examine how we keep and treat our horses if we wish to continue to enjoy our equestrian pursuits. This brings us to the question of “our” (collective) horsemanship skills.
When a lesson client comes to you claiming to have been in a lesson program for “several years”, but cannot tack up a horse, a Diploma graduate that cannot discuss the basics of equine nutritional needs, apply basic equine first aid apply or even identify different saddles types, or an owner that cannot recognize their horse is a little off by a quick evaluation of an unusually messy stall, you start to wonder what is happening with basic “horsemanship” ……the art of riding, training and managing horses.
As a riding coach, I am astounded by the apparent ignorance by people who claim to be “experienced” (each of the above examples are actual encounters!). There appears to be a growing knowledge gap in many owners and riders of fundamental principles in training, basic care and management, as well as diminished powers of observation and willingness to question (both ourselves and others), at a time when our horsemanship should be improving.
Horse ownership and riding is steeped in tradition, but we cannot ignore the growing body of knowledge gained through research in all areas concerning horses, from daily management right through to training. In the words of Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”. It is incumbent upon all of us to do better, to set aside egos and improve our horsemanship in every sense of the word and ensure that we teach the same responsibility to those entering the world of horses.
This is the first in a series of articles that will delve into each aspect of horsemanship, to challenge long standing traditions and widely held beliefs of what is acceptable in our approach to horse ownership, riding, and care.
Jenni Fugate is a team member of The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases, legal matters, appraisals, and business affairs. Jenni is an expert in Arabians, Teaching, Dressage and Biomechanics. She is a native of Australia and has been working with horses since she was a child, she studied at Melbourne University and graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Equine). She now lives in Utah on her farm where she trains and teaches. For more information on Jenni visit www.theequineexpert.com or you may contact Jenni at Jenni@theequineexpert.com. The opinions expressed are those of Jenni as an expert equestrian.