The churning hooves grip the desert floor as the horse, with mane whipping in the wind, dodges past rocks and vegetation.
The breathtaking height as the horse soars over the jump, fulfilling our desire to take flight.
The black stallion rearing on the tiptoes of his back hooves as he neighs his challenge to the skies above.
All of these images represent in many ways what we love about horses. The incredible beauty of the ultimate in incredible power and freedom.
So what do we do? We tie down, we hold, we tame? We change the very thing that we love and admire most about our horses. And in the process…
In the process we subjugate, and take away what draws us to them in the first place. Many of us sense this dichotomy either consciously or unconsciously, and we see this in the many different searches for an alternate reality in horsemanship.
All of these appeal to that which is in all of us. A realization that we do want to respect the natural and incredible beauty and power of the horse, and are looking for a partnership where we can join together and be with these amazing animals without creating marionettes that have had their incredible movement altered into something false and very wrong.
It has always seemed quite contrary to me that you have to have one thing, in this case contact, to create the opposite thing, in this case the ability to work off the weight of the reins alone. And that there is simply no other way to achieve collection.
As if you would need hot water to create cold water, or white paint to create black.
I know it is a struggle getting the horse to understand that we want them to carry more weight on the hind end. The necessity to create a mental/physical(?) wall that stops the horse from thinking forward in all of its connotations, in order to create upwards. Forwards being the most common natural response that these flight animals offer us.
There are endless ways to try to create the concept of up versus forward. Side reins, flexions, wall work, bits, half halts – all of them different ways to try to create a wall to make the horse go up instead of forward.
But can we challenge the concept that the only way to create collection, a horse on his hind end, is through constraint or a holding in of the front end?
Collection is not something we make up as if it had never existed before. It exists already, always has, in the body of the horse.
Excerpt from September 2007 Freedom of Movement