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Horse training past, present, and future.

Don Jessop

In the past, horses needed to be "used." They were, for lack of a better term, a tool. They helped us travel, work, and communicate. The methods for training horses, therefore, were of a more practical nature. By today's standards, horse training fifty to a hundred years ago would be considered abusive. I'm sure there were pockets of good trainers but generally speaking the world responded to outspoken trainers like Professor Jesse Beery. With a mail in booklet, you could learn about hobbles and running w's. Techniques that were profoundly effective at proving to the horse, they had no choice but to comply. Some of these methods are still used today in certain communities. I don't promote them, but that doesn't mean they don't still exist out there.
Fortunately, our perspectives have changed, and we are now using more ethical means to get through to our horses. However, I dare say, training in general, is still not even close to the ideal we strive for. In our present world, the focus moved from practical to performance. From "utilitarian," to "who can win a blue ribbon?" Also, today, we see a lot of people shifting away from performance to more leisurely experiences, like trail riding and simple groundwork exercises. Generally, however, the modern focus of our horse industry is still performance based. Breeders promote their stallion based on how well he performed. Riders buy horses for their potential to do something grand. Even in my corner of the world, where I work with the most dedicated and naturally oriented folks, I still hear people say how their horse isn't reaching its potential and how they wish someone would take that horse and really show the world what it can do.

It's an interesting observation, we've moved from practical to performance. Where are we going to move next? What does our future hold? Will we see our horses differently? Will we act more ethically in our performance work, to support them in their natural state and enhance their experience with us? Will we make it about them or about us?

I wrote a poem about this a few years ago. I'd like to share it with you now. And after, email me and share your thoughts with me. I'd like to know where you hope the future of horse training takes us.

As she walked through the valley of the shadow death, she saw no evil.
Fearful, no doubt, afraid of a butterfly, a wind change, or any upheaval.

But willing and courageous, she'd follow a leader, not even knowing why.
Confused, mistreated by some, yet adored by those who saw her try.

At times, a partner in crime, like with Jesse James, and other societal banes.
At times, for justice, responding to the lawmen, some, portrayed by John Wayne.

Back further, into the hearts of the natives, in a free land, open and untamed.
She chased after buffalo, carrying a rider pinned by his knees to take closer aim.

She fought wars with the greats, Napoleon, Alexander, Chinggis Khan, and more.
Never choosing a side, she became a true weapon, like no other ever seen before.

She powered machines, paved way for trains, canals, and made our cities better.
She raced the country, sack on her back, holding more than one precious letter.

When industry abandoned her and wars did not need, she was not exorcised.
She became our excuse to escape to elsewhere, competing to win a small prize.

For those who did not seek a crowd, a new form of leisure ascended the ranks.
She carried out campers and hunters with heavy packs set high upon her flanks.

And again, she did not question her role in our life, wishing not for another task.
Merely wanting kind treatment, for us to be mindful of the effort which we ask.

Soon, came countless other endeavors from our insatiable human desires.
From trick riding, and racing, and even therapy, to help tame our internal fires.

What can we give her for what she has done? What tribute, fitting and true?
We've come so far, all because of her, further than anyone ever knew.

Perhaps, as a gift, we bring her a future with companions who see even deeper.
True partners, with kind, leader-like hands, saving a place in our hearts to keep her.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a partner for horses who need partners. Feel free to share and comment.
With a new year ahead, we are literally looking into our future. What will it bring for the world of horses and humans? What will it bring for YOU? Don, Comments to:

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

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