the 21st century of horsemanship is characterized by the classical principles and practices of vaquero horsemaship and dressage, now merged together by the appearance of western Dressage, and Cowboy Dressage, and Working Equitation. In these venues, in my opinion, the horse and rider finally have a chance to perform who they are with beauty and harmony. This is what I call what I do “Fusion Horsemanship”
Raised in a suburb of Chicago, from the womb, my passion was horses. no one in my family had this genetic defect. I memorized Margret Cable Self, dreamt with Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley. At 9 years old, my dad took me to Marshall Field’s department store in down town Chicago and I bought a rope halter and lasso —-waiting for the horse to fill it. At 12, I had saved 150 dollars and bought my first horse, a 6 week old 1/2 arabian colt. I struggled against the odds of being from a not rich family, and being stubborn in my pursuit.
Between 12 nd 57 years old, I rode every horse I could, mucked every stall necessary to get me a lesson in exchange. I rode in rain and wind, on mostly cranky horses, because the good ones were for the well off riders. That never, ever bothered me. I enjoyed the challenge of finding how I could coax my mounts to be brilliant. At 57 years old, I was asked to be a Founding Partner of Cowboy Dressage, with Eitan Beth Halachmy, Lyn Rose and Garn Warner. ln lots of work, miles and ambassadorship, Cowboy Dressage has become international, improving horsemanship for the Western rider and horse. My best mount, Bey Jude, took me to heights (and wins against the best) I had always dreamed of. An Arabian of all things….
Fusion Horsemanship is the practice of principles of Dressage, with patterns from WD, CD and WE. The essential groundwork teaches horses the answers needed once the rider starts asking questions and gives cues from their back. No discipline can be developed without the proper foundations.
the essentials to Fusion H. are the release that teaches, timing, feel, waiting for the calming response from he horse, using the “soft feel” which is the language of lightness in the conversation between horse and rider/handler. the rider on the back needs to develop skills, techniques and feel and timing essential to communication with the horse carrying them. Timing in the giving and releasing of cues is paramount to teaching the horse to respond to light cues. Often, as I ride, other riders watch. They ask what I do. I wish they would also ask, how and when.
The best way to answer is to recognize the following conditions . invisible skill is characterized by the following progression. The rider is 1. unconsciously incompetent. 2. consciously incompetent 3. consciously competent 4. unconsciously competent.
this is the framework to get there. Every rider must assess their horsemanship every time they get ton the back of the next horse. Riding, horsemanship has no conclusion – there is always something more to learn, more to feel and better responses to develop. The horse is our best teacher. They know how to do it all before we put on the saddle and bridle. The better horses “fill in” for our lack of technique. The hard to train horses make us humble to get through it all.
number 4 is when we know what to do(or not do) without calculating. Horses are wired to respond to stimuli at a rate far exceeding our sensitivities. They have to because they are a prey animal, the one eaten. AS the horse is moving 4 feet in micro second intervals, just think how cueing them needs to be within these micro second spaces. Doing flying changes are cued like this. So, just imagine the feel necessary from the rider to provide cues while the 1000 pound animal is moving. the cues we use are hands, seat, legs, weight, back, position of the arms and the angles this appendages take.
how do we manage all this, teaching the horse to dance with us? It is just like eating an elephant – one little bite at a time.
But, many riders do not do that. Because Hurry is another characteristic of 21st century, the path to developing invisible cues from the rider and immediate responses from the horse is not taken. Instead, the rider is taught to kick to go and pull to stop. And, from this, the horse is taught to be dull to the cues, because the “release that teaches” is not taught and, thus, not employed.