Beyond Basic Horsemanship – The Journey of Laura & Judy
Judy and Laura have a friendship spanning 20 years and horses play an important role in the time they spend together. While both ladies are experienced riders, finding Just Equus and working with Pete has only served to strengthen the bond they share with each other and their horses.
Laura explains that full time work had left little time for horses and Judy was kept busy running her own business from home. Now the two friends have made changes to decrease their workload, finding more time for riding and learning. Judy and Laura spent time travelling together, attending clinics and focusing on horsemanship. Two and half years ago they looked for coaching closer to home. The reviews they read about Pete gave an insight into the kind of partnership and trust he’s able to forge between horse and rider. It was definitely something they wanted to pursue.
For Judy, finding Pete has been like a dream come true. “I have wanted my own horse since I was five years old,” Judy confides. “Mum always hoped I would grow out of it, but at the age of 32 and with great trepidation, I finally bought my first horse. I have always prided myself on being a kind rider and horse owner; never pulling roughly on the reins. But neither did I expect or ask too much of my horse and Pete has shown me that’s not necessarily a good thing.”
‘Pete taught me that softness is communicating with my horse using subtle messages through body language and energy.’ – Judy.
“Coco had always been a very cautious horse; she was a real worrier! Since working with Pete I have become a much better leader and she has become much calmer and if anything does disturb her; much easier to settle. She has become a joy to ride. Pete taught me that softness is communicating with my horse using subtle messages through body language and energy. I direct Coco through feel with my seat in the saddle, there’s much less hands and heels this way but it’s a more direct way of talking to the horse. She recognises these signals and responds to them in such a way it almost becomes a dance; I lead she follows. It’s really thrilling.”
Good horsemanship is a kind of symbiosis; a relationship that works with the horse instead of against it and gets great results because your horse is not operating out of fear, but a respectful understanding. Connection between horse and rider requires feel, timing and balance and once established a strong bond exists between horse and rider that can only lead to a higher level of communication.
‘Symbiosis – a mutually beneficial relationship. A close connection between different types of beings in which they live together and benefit from each other.’
“Pete was able to demonstrate that a horse, being a herd animal looks for and desires direction. As a rider I needed to be confident and clear in my communication of that. Once I learnt to give Coco clear directions at the right time, I was amazed how quickly she learnt to respond. Pete also showed me the importance of reward for effort. I now recognise what Pete means by, the slightest try, the slightest change, reward,” Judy says.
Laura wanted help with a young horse and was impressed with the response and softness she was able to achieve in her very first lesson with Pete. “He helped me see the little things that needed work and impressed on me the need for consistency. We started with groundwork, always so essential and I loved that Pete not only knew how to connect with my horse and understand her, he was skilled at passing that knowledge on to me. There is no ego with Pete. He showed me how to connect so I didn’t have to rely on him to do it for me.”
In learning to understand her horse, Laura has learnt to be more observant; looking for clues in her horses’ behaviour and then having the tools to rectify problems before they intensify. “I have learnt to observe my horse and asses her moods. Little changes in her body language tell me whether she is being respectful and submissive. Pete has shown me the importance of Gracie focusing on me, and when she doesn’t it’s time to step in and avoid the situation escalating. When I have the knowledge to control the situation, I am being a stronger leader and gaining her respect. When Gracie respects me, she is showing her confidence in me as her leader and we are continually building our bond.”
‘When I have the knowledge to control the situation, I am being a stronger leader and gaining her respect.’ – Laura.
Trust is paramount in the horse and rider relationship. With trust, your horse will gain confidence in your abilities and with confidence your horse will become a willing partner in the learning process. Laura has found Cowboy Dressage to be the perfect platform to showcase the communication skills she has learnt from Pete. “I love the competitive nature of Cowboy Dressage,” she says. “It involves a high level of partnership and communication with my horse. Feel, timing and softness all come into play but it doesn’t stress the horse as some ‘win at all costs’ competitions tend to do. Through working with Pete, my mare Gracie has become a very trusting partner with a beautiful calm and willing temperament.”
‘With trust, your horse will gain confidence in your abilities and with confidence your horse will become a willing partner in the learning process.’ – Pete.
Judy and Laura love their lessons with Pete. Some days they video each other’s lessons, there is a lot to be learnt from watching them again later. It’s a great way to observe how each horse responds to directions. “I’d say lessons with Pete mean more to me than anything,” Judy adds. “They are just brilliant. I would rather be doing this than anything else.”
When riding together they often discuss what Pete has shown them which help them support each other and reinforce skills learnt. If Laura’s mare Gracie were to become unsettled or anxious during a ride, Judy might remind Laura to sit back and relax. When the horse responds to this, they can both see how much they have learnt and how well it all works in practise.
“Training together has been a great confidence boost for both of us,” says Laura. “We often spend the whole day together after a lesson, mucking around with the horses, chatting about what we’ve just learnt and buying horsey things on-line!”
Symbiosis (noun) Origin Greek from ‘sumbios’ meaning companion. The interaction of two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. A mutually beneficial relationship. A close connection between different types of beings in which they live together and benefit from each other.
Does this describe the relationship you have with your horse? Do you want to achieve the perfect horse and rider symbiosis?
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