I used to think that dabbling in this method or that style would make me a really good rider and trainer.
What it made me was really confused.
Have you noticed the really good trainers and riders have a style all their own? Everyone then does interviews and articles, and watches them carefully, trying to copy them and create the same results. But it doesn’t work that way.
The many distinctive methods we see all around the world derive from what makes sense to the person who started it. All methods work on the exact same principles, or they wouldn’t work. Each horse and each trainer are individuals, and different words and phrases make sense to different people, so we get different ways of explaining things and different ways of creating behaviour.
That is why you can’t just watch someone and copy them. The great trainer has spent years filtering. They’ve worked out a system for processing all the opinions and styles that come their way, and choosing what they understand and what the horses they work with understand. So, you say, that’s what I need to do. Read and watch everything and filter it down to what works for me and my particular horse.
If only it were that simple. You’d need about 20 lifetimes to even scratch the surface of all the methods and ideas that are out there. That’s exactly why I got so confused. And that is exactly why I was so drawn to equitation science.
Equitation science is a filter. A system for evaluating what is going to work and what isn’t so you don’t have to try it all and end up just as confused as your horse has become due to your dabbling. There is always more to learn, and you can always learn something from everybody (even if it’s what not to do). But having a way to process all the information is a necessity, or you end up mired down in it all, unable to see your way clearly forward.
From years of research, there are certain things we know horses in general learn well from, and things that in general are best avoided because they are either ineffective or inhumane. Why not use that great body of knowledge acquired in previous generations to evaluate what is likely to work and what is likely not to before going and experimenting on your horse?
Now that I have been steeped in the equitation science world for a few years, patterns are starting to emerge. Each time I take in a training horse, I notice these patterns and can start to make predictions about what the horse might do next, and what my next training steps will be, and whether to just ignore a behaviour or work on it actively. Equitation science accelerated my ability to do this while I’m still relatively young. I don’t have to have lived 9 lives and gained all the experience myself. Andrew McLean and the other scientists who pioneered equitation science have done that before me.