To be a good horseman you need to not only focus on one aspect of the partnership, its a bizarre thing that traditional training methods seem to skim over both aspects of this special relationship.
I've gone through all the levels of training that the BHS offer and its only in the highest of echelons that you start to maybe form your own methods, but maybe you just follow the tradition and still get the qualifications.
Things like riders position are taught and trained, but unlike in yoga teaching the actual anatomy of the human is never discussed let alone taught to coaches or instructors, so we are realigning the body of the human with potentially no actual in-depth knowledge of what that is doing and how it is all connected. This really struck me on my yoga teacher training when we had to learn the anatomy of the human, I suddenly realised although I had been teaching humans in a physical capacity for 15 years the only anatomy I really knew was that of the horse. So then we come to the horse, and still it is only really brushed over, the depths of horse behaviour are never fully explored, its surface level knowledge that we learn as a child and that's about it, I think that's where the "natural horsemanship" movement has come in to play as at least they get us questioning, even if some opinions aren't correct or still as vague as the traditional way we can start to look a little deeper.
We're taught that if we spend a fortune on the horse, the tack, the physio we will be fine, but that's only half the team, what about us. We feed the horse all the good stuff and eat mars bars and drink coffee or coke ourselves, we make sure the horse has no aches and pains, yet our lower back, right shoulder, left knee are agony and we just power on. But the truth is, unless we honestly address our own fallibilities, weaknesses and injuries we will only ever be looking at half the picture. And lets get even more honest, a well fitting £3000 saddle and £500 ergonomic bridle will go a little way to comfort for the horse, but if were so lop sided or rigid down the right rein it can only do so much.
We need to start to put our own self up there with the importance of the horse, if not for ourselves but then at least for our horses. And this may be the "boring" work, but it is the work that needs to be done.
Whether were training in the "traditional" way or the "natural" way, or a mixture of both, if we only ever focus on the horse a big piece of the puzzle is missed.
I believe this is because, the top trainers and coaches are naturally horsemen, in the way that they don't hold the stress in their bodies that the regular rider way do, they don't get anxious around the horse that's rearing so they don't even have to think about breathing deeply, they already are, so their focus can be solely on the horse. Even more, the team members are now subject to Yoga, Pilates physio as part of their daily routine, but us mortals don't seem to have the time to add that into our daily routine too. Its seen as a luxury, a runner would warm their body up before running yet we hop onboard cold and tight and expect ourselves to immediately flow with the horse, when we think about it we start to see how mad it is.
I've taught many a human how to ride a horse, and my focus is not only on the horse, it has to be on the human too, otherwise I am letting the horse down.
My aim with matwork, and horse talks is to deepen our knowledge, to expand out of the boxes of the traditional or the norm and to be brave enough to look at the biggest picture, the whole partnership.