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Don Jessop

These 6 categories encompass all horsemanship activities and they simply describe the mode of application.

Category one: One lead rope
Groundwork with a single lead rope (in various lengths) and halter for basic day to day application, plus preparation for other activities.

Category two: Two long lines
Groundwork preparation for performing arts or driving from a carriage or cart.

Category three: Liberty training, or "no lines"
Ground work which is connection and attention based training either in closed spaces or open spaces depending on your skill level.

Category four: Control riding or "foundation riding"
Basic riding with halter or bridle. This category tests your ability to safely navigate trails, courses, group riding, jumping, and basic maneuvers, all with the support of hands on tools.

Category five: Bridle less riding or "hands free riding."
This category tests your ability to guide and navigate patterns or courses without the signals to head gear on the horse. The pinnacle of bridle less riding is elegant control within each gate demonstrating both basic and upper level maneuvers such as flying changes, jumping, trial riding and more.

Category six: Collected riding or "shaping"
This is usually associated with a bridle but can be done without. Often seen in dressage and upper level horsemanship maneuvers such as vertical flexion, tempi lead changes, half passes, pirouettes, piaffe, passage, lavede, etc.

Test your new knowledge...

What category would the western riding sport called "reining" fit into?
Answer... upper level bridle less riding.

What about another western sport called "cowboy dressage?"
Answer... collected riding.

What about logging or, driving a sleigh in the snow, or pulling a wagon?
Answer... two line driving

What about working with cattle?
Answer... control riding.

What about jumping?
Answer... Control riding.

What about trail riding?
Answer... control riding.

What about round pen work?
Answer... if it's without a lead rope, it's called liberty, if it's with a lead rope, it's called one line work or play.

What about dressage?
Answer... collected riding.

What about bareback riding?
Answer... depend on your tools. Are you hands free? Then it's bridleless. Are you shaping? Then it's collected? Are you hands on with a bridle or halter asking for basic things? Then it's control riding. It can change back and forth but it's clear where your focus is at any moment.

The list could go on but I hope you're seeing the common language here. In fact, that's the whole point of the article. I believe it helps for everyone in the horse industry to have some common language. These categories don't discuss dressage skill levels, or techniques, or natural vs traditional tools, or right vs wrong. They simply describe, in a comprehensive way, how we, as horse lovers, participate with our horse, friends, and colleagues.

The value of common language is to help remove judgment between sports and disciplines. I grew up believing western riding was the only way to go. Then, in my teens, my friend introduced me to an English saddle, and I adopted a new type of riding. Then, as I grew, I adopted more skills, and more sports specific tools for both English and western disciplines. On my journey over the decades, I've uncovered something unique to humans. We want to feel like what we are doing is the "right" thing. And often, not on purpose, we demean the things other people are doing to feel like what we have is true and right.

By identifying the 6 categories we can see all activities like you'd see a forest and a single tree, metaphorically speaking. We can take the judgment of techniques and tools away, leaving people the freedom to explore different tools and techniques. Naturally, we all want people to be kind to their horses. Naturally, we all want horses to experience a good life, regardless of their owner's discipline of choice. But from now on and forever, there is no need to think someone should or shouldn't do a particular sport or should or shouldn't signal a horse in a different way than we might. Now, we can chalk it all up as part of the whole map of horsemanship.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing. Together we are determined to make the world for horses and people and better place. Don

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


Don opened up a community, full of people on the same journey you are!
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Don Jessop


Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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