Nothing Forced Can Ever Be Beautiful- Xenophon

At the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, we are focused on horse centered re-schooling. This is all about finding out what our horses want to be when they grow up, and working with them to make that happen. As the communications intern, I have abundant opportunities to learn about this process. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to experience it myself.

Our wonderful mascot Gunner was my guide through this unique way of truly working with horses. Our director Susanna Thomas began our lesson with a quick physics lesson. All I really remembered about physics was how boring it was in high school. If our classes had been like her lesson was, I may have enjoyed it more! The key to working with your horse is all in the physics. Your weight and momentum have to be in sync with the horse, otherwise you’re just sitting on it, speaking a different language.

As our mascot, Gunner does everything, from making public appearances to giving lessons to beginners. Because of this, he had forgotten how to listen to some of the more subtle cues from his rider. We began our lesson refreshing his memory. The most important thing when teaching a horse a new skill, or refreshing an old one, is to make the right choice easy, and the wrong choice hard.

To ride well, you must be balanced and centered with the horse. To drive this point home, Susanna had me ride Gunner bareback. After walking for a bit and working on feeling the sequence of Gunner’s steps and his movement when leg yielding, Susanna had me pick up a trot. Gunner was a patient teacher as I flopped around, trying to figure out what Susanna meant about not gripping with your legs (all I could think was “How else am I going to stay on?!?”) and simply moving with the horse. After some failed attempts and almost successes, I felt as if I may have figured it out. Just as I felt myself stabilizing and moving with Gunner (suddenly, it was easy to stay on and balanced), he dropped his head, rounded his neck and began moving in a beautiful frame. I hadn’t even asked him too! To me, that is the best example that working WITH your horse is most effective. All I had to do to achieve beautiful movement from Gunner was move with him. I don’t know about you, but that’s the easiest way I’ve ever gotten a horse to frame up.