I have a problem...
I've got a problem. It's been festering ever since Monty Roberts became famous. I have nothing against Monty Roberts, neither against Pat Parelli or our newest star Tristan Tucker. As a matter of fact, when Tristan made his extremely funny statement on horseback at the dressage convention, I thought: 'ah, a breath of fresh air and finally we stop thinking in boxes'. Someone who is trying to bridge these strange and unnecessary gaps between a bunch of narrow-minded groups of equine enthusiasts.
When this whole new era of natural horsemanship started, together with the sudden appearance of classic dressage as a completely new discovery (how did that happen?), I was immediately attacked for being a narrow-minded dressage freak by some of the new addicts wearing cowboy hats. I was speechless. I've worked hard from a very young age to understand the horse, day-in, day-out, in riding schools, jumping yards, eventing yards and, yes, also dressage yards and somehow was better at dressage and developed myself in this to a higher level; still able now, to go back to the beginning and helping people with their young horses, working through their growing-up problems.
When I watched Monty Roberts for the first time, I thought: 'Hey, I recognize this. I do that on the lunge when I'm working a young horse', of course didn't dear to say this out loud in order not to upset any of his followers. We, 'conventional trainers' whispered it to one another, but no more than that.
I guess, some of us were partly to blame for this. In the horse world there are some very good trainers, unfortunately also equipped with a short fuse. This hasn't helped the situation.
But what drives me completely around the bend, is that inexperienced horse lovers are given the misconception that they can learn how to back and train a horse with a couple of courses, worse, a course you can buy on the internet!
A prime example is a horse which lived in my yard as a youngster, belonging to a pupil of mine. She decided to back him through join-up. All that went fine, but I never doubted that in the first place, as she had tremendous feel for a horse and was already a fairly experienced rider. Then the trouble started: every time this horse had a tiny little issue, something that would go away if virtually ignored, a teething problem so to speak, she would do yet another join-up with him. It became a sport, as the owner started to become addicted to her horse dropping its head and wanting to follow her anywhere. I saw this horse shrivel up and die inside. In the end he did not like people any more.
These methods are fine in the right hands and they are not as novel as many think they are. What I want to get across desperately, is, that good and honest horsemanship can only be achieved through hours and hours, days and days, years and years of spending time with horses and not through a quick course here and there.
I am worried, as I see more depressed and lame horses, caused by the irresponsible way of passing on knowledge, which is misunderstood and therefore abused by innocent horse lovers, who desperately want to learn but sadly are sucked into cult-thinking.
I'm also worried that those same horse lovers are charged a fortune, often by people who call themselves qualified, after having done some 'qualifying courses' by 'qualified' trainers in a certain method.
A few examples: a newish pupil calls to cancel her lesson because she had a visit from a horse whisperer who had been whispered to that the horse wanted a break because of a skin irritation on its back. I had already told this pupil during her first lesson to wash her numnah as everything was filthy! She paid this lady 80 pounds.
A licensed 'qualified natural horseman' was found to leave a problem horse without bedding, food or water in order to get some results in the round pen.
WHO IS CHECKING ON THESE PEOPLE???
The art of horsemanship is centuries old and it takes years, other than some talent, a decent equine education and endless patience, to become a competent trainer and instructor. There, I rest my case.
Picture: training a young horse for the Mounted Police when horse training was horse training, sirens on and lights flashing.
Part of the ride
It all began some twenty years ago. My great friend Sjakkie would turn up regularly with first only little Joscelyn, and a few years later her little baby-brother Petroc, as well. I loved them both equally as much, but of course could not help but notice Jos's face lighting up when she saw my horses.
Fergie, my broodmare, was extremely safe and it didn't take any convincing for Jos to be thrown up on top. 'Hoho, it's windy up here.' I shall never forget that moment. First of all, my nickname, how do they make it up! Second, how funny but also how true. She was now some five feet higher up than she'd ever been and the world felt and looked so very different.
Jos was only four years-old when, all by herself, she would help me getting my mare Marie bandaged up. At the time my back was not good, hence the fact I would first put a bandage at each leg before crawling around on hands and knees in order to put them on. Jos would make sure they were in exactly the right place, also occasionally undoing one in order to roll it back up. I always made sure to have one handy in my pocket so as not to make her feel bad. Inevitably she started at the wrong end.
Next thing was, we had to find her a little old trustworthy pony and, yes, there happened to be one next door. Thirty years old, going strong and man, could this thing bite when I was off-guard wandering along the Cornish lanes with Jos happily pulling the wild flowers out of the hedgerow, chatting away for dear life. The pony was called Sunny, but Jos didn't think much of this and changed it all by herself into 'Sunshine Georgia'.
Time moved on and the family moved to Holland, in order to be closer to family. Wringford became their second home for much of the summer holidays and Jos, having regular lessons at her local riding school, was able to ride my mare Marie and the very kind livery horse Frost.
And now, well, here we are; with the great help of Neel Schakel-van Klei of riding school 'Schakel' in Ameide, Joscelyn is now not only officially assistant-instructor but also very close to being able to compete Medium on Zorro, a smart bay gelding belonging to the riding school.
Congratulations, Jos, and I've loved being part of the ride!
Pictures: Joscelyn Weychan, on my broodmare Fergie, with 'Sunshine Georgia' and recently with Zorro
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About Liz Barclay
Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.
THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...
My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.