Some very good questions… Part 3
One of my (Jumper Girl’s) favorite books on riding is “Centered Riding” by Sally Swift. I had heard about it years ago, but only got my hands on a copy recently. When I finally read it, I was totally impressed. For all that the pictures and visualization techniques can sometimes seem a little silly, the concepts are solid and I found myself actually physically nodding in agreement at several points. That is, until I got to the section on jumping position. Which elicited a big WTF? She seems to think riding in a chair seat is going to stop people from throwing their bodies forward over fences! Has she ever actually jumped? ‘Cause being behind the motion and not having your body weight over the stirrups is a perfect recipe for having to try to catch up, at least in my experience. Otherwise, great book!
Which brings us to our third reader inspired post. We already covered why we featured Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team and our general thoughts on Parelli. This one’s all about sorting through the, for lack of a better word, bullshit out there in the horse world.
“The only NH style routine I’ve flat out learned from a NH trainer is to disengage the rear end on an aggressive bolting draft cross (one day she spooked and bolted so hard I literally pulled a groin muscle trying to stay with her! YOW!). We taught her on the ground and then in the saddle that a certain touch on the reins meant to swing out her back end (and therefore stop)….
…The dressage trainer’s response was to be better at riding (though I can hardly disagree with this statement), but the owner and I weren’t going to become trainer quality riders without said equine to practice on, so weird non-dressage measures that our trainer never would have tried turned out to be the answer.”
“Ohhh SR…between Craig Stevens and Parelli, you may have open a big can of worms. Those are two very controversial people!”
We’ve already told you what we think of Parelli – that under the incredible amount of marketing and sales pitches, there are some decent ideas that might be helpful to newbies, if it’s used as one of many resources. The problem is when people rely on one technique or methodology to the exclusion of all others. CattleDog related a story about using an NH principle to successfully deal with an issue in a dressage horse. That’s smart. She also mentioned that her dressage trainer never would have tried it. That’s not so smart.
Craig Stevens is another dressage trainer. He runs a facility called the National School of Academic Equitation. From his website:
“Craig is both educated and eclectic in his approach. As a student, Craig worked with the best of the 20th century classical trainers, studying with such master horsemen as Joao Oliveira of Portugal, the French masters Michel Henriquet and François Lemaire de Ruffieu, members of the Cadre Noir, as well as with Katherine Durand. And, most importantly, he learned to read French in order to research equitation history. He read everything he could get his hands on, and he’s not done yet. Craig is constantly engaged in a relentlessly joyful pursuit of an equestrian education, and he loves finding treatises by master horsemen whose works are not well known.”
He promotes a “classical” approach to dressage, with an emphasis on softening the aids and focusing on developing the rider’s seat and balance. Sounds pretty good, right? But then every picture of him, he’s riding like this:
Sigh… hands in his lap, eyes looking straight down and those are not happy looking horses. We can think of another post he would’ve fit into! A little further exploring through his site reveals how to videos – exciting! They include gems like this one:
Apparently using the leg for lateral movements is a “useless modern invention”. The only aid necessary for a shoulder-in is inside rein! I feel so stupid after all these years of successfully moving my horse off my leg… it seemed effective at the time, but I guess I was wrong. I’m so enlightened now! From now on I’ll just pull his face around with my inside rein and call it a shoulder-in! Hurrah!
Interestingly enough, he also has a video describing what he thinks the effect of a direct rein should be and it sounds suspiciously like the NH trick CattleDog successfully used on the DraftX.
So perhaps it’s not strictly an NH technique? Right or wrong, his videos give us a lot of new ideas to consider!
“Wait, Lee is the same guy that wrote “Rolkur (Hyperflexion)”??
Because I’ve read that article before and he doesn’t sound like a complete wacko there.”
Yup, the lovely Lee Stanek wrote an article called Rolkur (Hyperflexion). It’s very easy to dismiss someone who thinks that women are the source of all the world’s problems, that riding horses don’t need any turnout (if they’ve never had it, they won’t be able to miss it!) and doesn’t realize that the canter is a three beat gait. But if you can get through the sexist ranting (and the general bad English), he occasionally raises a good point. We completely agree that the hyperflexion that has come under scrutiny in the dressage world lately is a disgrace. And we also think his thoughts on pressure and release as means of working a horse through fear issues are valid.
The point that we’re trying to make here is that no single person is going to have all the answers. We don’t agree with everything Craig Stevens preaches, but we do like his approach of trying to constantly expand his base of knowledge. Opening yourself up to new information is never a bad thing, even if sometimes you simply learn what not to do.
“The problem is when people stop thinking”
Amen to that!