I stumbled across a cool video that horse owners and trainers should see, if only to remind them of what’s possible without all the restraints. We always have such awe and high praise for the few individuals who do bridleless or free work. And if they can do it in front of a crowd, even more praise worthy. Most have seen Staci Westfall’s freestyle reining tribute to her father. A lot have seen the One-Armed Bandit and his Paints, Mules or Mustangs. Some have seen shows like Cavalia. And I know every single one of you knows who Pat Parelli is and have to at least seen some bareback, bridleless jumping, or his famous lady-in-a-wheelchair Friesian demo. But how many of us have actually taken those shows to heart and gone back home and committed to training, working or just being around our horses without restraint?
One of the many flaws that we humans have is that we’re control freaks. Some are control freaks in every aspect of their lives, others hone their control freak streak and direct it at a single purpose or target, as the rest of their lives roll uncontrollably down a hill at full speed. Take a moment to think about what you are always trying to control in your life. Is it your weight? Your spouse? Your kids? Or your horse?
I’ve always had fences to keep my horses ‘in’, because that’s the responsible thing to do to keep them safe and off other’s property or away from dangerous situations like a road. But despite that I’ve had several escape over the years. Sometimes boards were kicked down, gates left unlocked, or hotwire shorted out, but none of the escapees ever left. They did laps around the house, ripping up the lawn, or went to visit other horses in another pasture on the property, or just wandered about investigating things, leaving behind a trail of poop piles for me to clean up. I have had, though, the occasion to leave a few horses entirely loose without fencing for days on end. It was the only gift I could think to give them before they passed on.
I have been reminded recently of the control freak in people as I rehab a horse. A horse who explodes without warning when tied, crosstied or single tied. So, I don’t tie her. I know that the approach for most people is to fix the tying issue by using breakaway ties, or bungie/rubber, or to tie her tight to an immovable object, like a tree, and let her fight until she gives up (or kills herself). When was the last time you brushed your horse, picked its feet, and tacked it up without having it tied, AND the horse just stood quietly the whole time content to have you around it, and content in the knowledge that when you were done it was going to have to work for you?
Here’s one more question for you to ponder at various times during your next horse interaction. Given the choice in the moment, would your horse choose to stay with you or leave?
The video is long, but try and stick it out. There are some really cute moments when a horse or two decides to ‘improvise’. The second video is much shorter and represents snippets of a similar show, but there’s foals involved.