Saturday, June 20, 2009


The Bigger the Restraints

The Bigger the Wreck

Many might get the impression that I do not believe in the use of tack. This is NOT true.There is a time for such things as there is for almost everything. I firmly believe that there are no bad horses, only bad riders. And there are no bad techniques, only bad timing, and no bad equipment, only bad applications. Riding a horse without a saddle is an excellent test of your balance. Riding a horse without reins is an excellent test of your relationship. When you know these aspects of your horsemanship are intact, you are then liberated to use tack for its intended purpose.

There can be no Obedience without the

Corresponding Freedom to Disobey

In keeping with the goal of partnership, the use of equipment must be restricted to the development of a better relationship and better communication. Ironically, this will not only be more enjoyable for both horse and rider, it will also be substantially safer. It is no secret that the vast majority of all injuries associated with horses, whether to the horse, or to the rider, are directly proportional to the level of restraint applied to the horse. This is revealed by the fact that whenever people talk about an equine related injury, it almost always involves a lead rope, tying, hitching, cross ties, trailers, a stall or some other form of restraint.

It is clear that an animal whose survival depends on his ability to flee is most dangerous to itself and to others when it is restrained. It is therefore incumbent upon us to provide a horse with as much freedom as possible.

But safety is not the only reason we should avoid restraining a horse. The best reason is that restraints are designed to limit a horse’s freedom. And freedom lies at the very heart of the matter. The relationship you have with your horse should be a partnership. A partnership cannot exist without dialogue. A dialogue cannot exist without honesty, and honesty cannot exist without freedom.

When a horse is restrained, he does not have the freedom to engage in dialogue. All his responses will be forced reactions compelled by the restraints. They will not be the honest responses that reflect the horse’s true state of mind or level of training. Without honesty, the rider is forced to content himself with the illusion of compliance provided by the restraints or equipment. The rider in turn is restrained. Instead of someone who enjoys the freedom of riding a horse, he becomes someone who rides a saddle, and steers a bridle.

Finally, restraints mock the very reason we ride horses. I contend that no child dreamed of riding a horse in little patterns around an arena. He dreamed of the freedom of riding a horse in the wide open spaces. And yet, we expect to get this at the expense of the horse’s freedom. If you will consider the logic of being free while connected to something that is not, you will begin to see the absurdity of it all. After all, if the horse is restrained, how can he carry us to freedom? A well trained horse has self restraint, self discipline, and self carriage. These virtues are meaningless where he is not at liberty to engage in misconduct and where he is reduced to nothing more than a slave, constrained by mechanical devices and an unrelenting hand

Where there is no Freedom

There is no Honesty

This is not to say that I never advocate the restraint of horses. But restraints should be restricted to the purposes of training, and teaching. A horse that is not finished will require restraints in the same way a child requires restrictions imposed by a loving parent. And the restrictions placed on a child are for the purposes of developing his education and discipline so that as he becomes older, he will become a self sufficient, productive, and above all, independent member of society. Likewise, our restrictions must always be applied with the welfare and independence of the horse as its primary goal and not for the convenience of the rider. In keeping with this concept, they should always be applied in such a way as to promote a reduction of their use in the future.

Riders should strive for the day when their horses can completely ignore their cues without consequences and yet choose to comply anyway. They should continue in this endeavor until such a time as the horse and rider are so harmonious in their collaboration that, to all, they appear as one because they are joined, not by tack, but by a bond of trust and affection more powerful than any bridle, and stronger than any chain.


The Natural Horse Vet said...

I rode with a bareback suede pad & no stirrups for 5 yrs & have gotten very lost many a times & trusted beloved paint R.I.P always brought us home,& could ride him with or without a bit etc. I miss him dearly.Diamond was 1 in a million.

Anonymous said...

You said, "..a horse should free to collect, rather than restrained into position.." What if the horse is barnsour (she arrived this way)? It's embarassing when the horse is sidestepping and resisting. Others suggested tight circles, one-rein stop, tie down, short rein, spins, but nothing works. Ppl. always comment that she is pretty prancing and look like fun, others think it's me. The horse is better, but I still hold a short rein, release, stop & go. If you have time pls. comment. Robyn

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