I think my greatest natural talent as a trainer/instructor is a keen power of observation. This is ironic since my eyes have clinically poor acuity! Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’m visually intuitive and able to discern what’s lurking beneath the surface of what I see. Either way I often find myself wishing my superb-sight had an on and off switch – or at least a damper that allowed my cognitive/emotional self to come away unscathed. I’m a trainer who strives to help horses and their human companions work together in comfort, balance, and enjoy a mutually-rewarding partnership. I am downright nitpicky about circumventing the possibility that a horse I work with or a student of mine rides/handles experiences any pain or distress. Did I mention I can eyeball a look of anxiety on a horse’s face or detect discomfort in his carriage from a mile away? My students are subject to my x-ray vision as well. I can see the moment they send tension down the reins, stiffen their pelvis, or misalign their shoulders.
- Riders relentlessly pulling on the reins.
- Horses nervously mouthing the bit.
- Equine eyelids wrinkled in worry.
- Unnatural mechanical gaits.
- Horses overflexed in the poll.
- Riders riding with uneven hands and crooked posture.
- Laterally and/or longitudinally unbalanced horses.
- Horses’ mouths being yanked or jerked.
- Horses being ridden sore or lame.
- Ill-fitting uncomfortable circulation-restricting tack.
- Poorly adjusted and severe bits
- Overly tightened nosebands.
- Horses repetitively asked to perform physically and/or emotionally stressful tasks.
What fills my eyes with joy is seeing a horse under the guidance of his human partner comfortably expressing his athletic potential, working in a relaxed and comfortable frame, and responding to cues with understanding and confidence. I love seeing a horse meet his person at the stall door or pasture gate eager for attention and an enriching training session. Watching a horse travel in balance on the ground or under saddle, legs flowing freely, back swinging, is heavenly to behold. A soft connection between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth, an imperceptible loop of communication between two bodies, make my visual cortex as happy as can be.
Horses are incredible, stupendous, magnificent creatures – honestly I can’t find words to adequately describe the grandeur my eyes perceive. What they do for us is tremendous. I think it’s our duty and responsibility to return the favor. Whether that means learning more about tack and equipment, equine biomechanics, proper care and management, and working to be more educated rider/handler, you benefit yourself as you benefit your horse. We would have more images of happy horses in the world for which my eyes would be forever grateful.
Dale Rudin is a CHA-certified riding instructor and clinician with a mindful and balanced approach to horsemanship and riding.