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STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW
This motto is something that I (and many others) have trouble abiding by. And when you are dealing with horses it's even more difficult and even more important. Firstly the horse cannot gives its opinion and secondly because of that people can accuse you of all sorts of things and really all you can do is argue back or ignore the criticism. For any of you that know Gerd Heuschmann (if you don't, look him up) he was vilified when a part video of him working with a remedial horse went online. They had got completely the worng end of the stick, had not understood what he was (and did) genuinely trying to achieve and was vilified by certain people for it. We all have to develop our own ways of doing things based on research, experience, our personality, the horses we are working with and what we are trying to achieve. When I first started out on the professional part of my horse career I did a talk to a group of horsey women near Limoges in France. It just ended up in them throwing lots of abuse at me. I vowed never to do anything similar again. All that matters at the end of the day is results. Listen to your horse and let him teach you and let what everyone else says wash over you. DO NOT ENGAGE! You are on a hiding to nothing as what you do can never be corroborated by the horse except in its way of going and behaviour. There are 2 things close to my heart right now that exemplify how important this is. KS (Kissing Spines) and the Pessoa.
Let's take KS first. There's a great operation now available (at the cost of many 1000's of pounds but, hey, the insurance pays so who cares?), the so-called 'lig snip'. I love that phrase. It sounds so small and insignificant but this involves severing the joining ligaments of the spinous processes and then often shaving the overlapping bones sometimes by a couple of cm or more. Given that this is a physical process and a relatively simple one, this should work close to 100% of the time barring very poor surgery. But the reality is that it is about 70% successful which begs the question why? Well, this is because KS is a symptom not a cause. In this case you can shave the offending bones which are rubbing together and cut the ligaments between the spinous processes so they regrow a little longer and the horse can go completely differently but you haven't sorted out the problem. The horse wasn't born with it so why has it happened now? That's what our job is and we have had experience now of 10 KS horses none of which have had surgery and all of which are back in work often at a much higher level than they were doing prior to the diagnosis. Have a look at our website for more information about what we do.
So, the Pessoa. The bete noire of horse training tools. "It's so hard and harsh", they say. "It forces the horse to go behind the bit", they say. "Gerd Heuschmann really hates it" they say as justification. As with any tool it is only as good as the hands that use it and this is the key with the pessoa. Most people buy one off the shelf with no training and are simply trying to force their horse 'into an outline'. But the problem is they haven't learned how to use it properly and in the wrong hands you can ruin a horse in 5 minutes. It's like buying a car without learning how to drive and like driving a car it can in fact be dangerous for the horse too. In fact, better still, it's like buying a car without knowing the highway code and what the car is for. The Holy Grail of developing a horse is not what it looks like but how it is moving. The fact that a horse looks great when it is moving well is not the point. This is usually based on years of proper work.
So, my advice, is go with your instincts, establish your base principles and let everything you do chime to those principles and let the results do the talking. And of course ALWAYS be prepared to LEARN but not by throwing away what you know and going with the latest and greatest but by putting aside what you know for a while and then properly evaluating the new knowledge. Assimilate the good and leave the rest.