Feed on

horseback-riding-145934_1280My last post (Towards Riding 1 – The Horse) elicited two comments which have profoundly affected my thoughts in the past few weeks and in doing so have helped create the basis for this post. The first comment came from Peggy on the east coast of Australia and it is this: “if you have a bond with your horse, are kind, considerate and don’t ask too much too soon … that is it in a nutshell”. The second was from Jade, who lives at the other end of the continent in Western Australia, and she wrote, “I have been thinking a lot lately about the horses’ pain and riding and through working with a local equine Bowen therapist, I have realised that horses having some degree of muscle soreness or pain is generally accepted as a part of them being ridden. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that I have not come across one regularly ridden horse that does not have pain somewhere in the body, which scares me greatly. Now I’m on the search to see whether there are ways to prevent this.” At first glance these two comments appear to reflect views at opposite ends of the spectrum. More importantly, they seem to imply a need to examine an underlying question whose profundity is all too often glossed over if not simply ignored: To ride or not to ride? This is the question.


The old and the new

Peggy is a dear friend who has often commented on this blog and who opened her home to Vicki and myself again during our trip to Australia and New Zealand in September and October last year. While we stayed with her, we were again privileged to witness the close bond that she enjoys with her horses and the extent to which they trust her. Older than we are and with vastly more experience of horses, to me Peggy represents a bit of what we humans have lost in our relationship with horses: the older generation’s ability to enjoy a no-nonsense, both-feet-firmly-on-the-ground, bullshit-free relationship with horses which is guided by genuine care and concern, albeit based on the assumption that riding is an essential part of that relationship to the extent that it is possible and enjoyable to engage in that activity while treating horses fairly and respectfully.

Jade is a young woman whom I have never met but whose inquiring mind and youthful wisdom stunned me when I first encountered her presence through this blog at the beginning of last year. So astounded was I that I promptly devoted a post to the story of Jade and her horses, Cisco and Dougie, and the revelations which it elicited within me. Entitled Stillness in the Brumby’s Breath, that post serves as an appropriate background to this discussion along with my last post, which essentially deals with a human’s awareness of the nature of the horse.

Dougie and Jade

Dougie and Jade

To me Jade represents part of the new generation of horse-loving humans who no longer wish to take everything for granted in their dealings with horses, in particular, the assumption that the driving force of the relationship between our species is the interaction between a horse’s back and a human’s bum. Jade opens her comment on my previous post with this introductory statement: “I have been following your posts closely lately because I have been contemplating the ethics of asking horses to carry us on their back, amongst other things we ask of them.” The question, “To ride or not to ride?”, is implicit in this comment. Has anyone you know ever asked themselves this question before placing their buttocks firmly and squarely on a horse’s back and assuming that their “equine friend” has undertaken to carry them? Have you? Have I? Is it not a question that we should ask ourselves instead of assuming that our horse wants to carry us or insisting that it has a duty to do so?


Those who say “No”

There are humans whom I am aware of who have come to answer the question, “To ride or not to ride?” with a resounding “No”. What makes their answer worth listening to is the fact that they include some of the most accomplished horse people of our time, humans who have not only demonstrated their ability to train and ride a horse but who have managed to do so without resorting to instruments of force in order to do so, relying instead on their commitment to developing a close relationship with their equine friends, as part of which the horse becomes a willing partner rather than a servile subordinate in the interaction between the species.

Alexander Nevzorov used to be one of if not the most proficient horsemen on the planet, capable of helping a thoroughbred stallion and mare to learn and want to perform haute ecole (high school dressage) at a level comparable to that of the Spanish School of Riding in Vienna, Austria, the Cadre Noir in Saumur, France, and the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Lisbon, Portugal, and doing so with nothing more than a cordeo (neck rope) and a twig. Committed to a scientific approach towards understanding the horse and a passionate defender of the species’ right to a life devoid of pain and suffering at the hands of humans, Nevzorov advocated riding for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time, before eventually concluding that even this compromised a horse’s health. He therefore decided to stop riding completely.

In Canada the Nevzorov Haute Ecole’s international representative, Michael Bevilacqua, a horseman with, as I understand it, an essentially different approach towards horses, one exhibiting more of an intuitive rather than a scientific bent, has come to a similar conclusion. Unlike Nevzorov, who received extensive classical dressage training before evolving his own horse-friendly approach, Michael Bevilacqua came to horses relatively late in life and had already developed a sensitivity and intuitive style by that stage, enabling him to move much more quickly than most towards developing a force-free, mutually empowering approach towards horses which allowed his equine friends to become willing partners in their dances together with him.

Path of the Horse: the video documentary which opened many humans’ eyes

Another one-time NHE member, Stormy May, has also renounced horse riding. Famous for her release of Path of the Horse, a video documentary which has done much to induce many humans to consider a new way of being with horses, Stormy May’s story is special in that she used to be a traditional, successful trainer of horses and humans (including other trainers) in what passed for the art of dressage at competition level using a full array of instruments of force, metal and otherwise.


The burden of riding

So why have these humans, who have not only played such an exceptional role in helping others discover a new, horse-friendly way of being and interacting with humans, but have also demonstrated their own proficiency in helping horses to become willing partners in their own training, decided to abandon riding? Much of the answer to this question is to be found in what they have discovered about the effects of riding on the horse and the tools employed to facilitate that pastime, such as bits, bitless head gear, saddles and various other instruments of force. Another part is to be found in the mental and physical condition of the horse, and the posture which it is forced to adopt when a human climbs on its back.



Over the years various experiments and studies have been carried out by different individuals and organisations into the impact of using common riding equipment such as bits, bitless head gear and saddles. For instance, Robert Cook, PhD., a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College in London, United Kingdom and Professor of Surgery Emeritus at Tufts University, Massachusetts in the United States of America, is a veterinarian who has extensively researched the carnage caused by bits over the years and has developed his own version of a bitless bridle to address his findings. You can read more about his work by visiting his website here (http://www.bitlessbridle.com), where you will also have access to the numerous articles which he has written on the subject, including a paper entitled A Method for Measuring Bit-Induced Pain and Distress in the Ridden Horse (http://www.bitlessbridle.com/MEASURING%20BIT-INDUCED%20PAIN2013.pdf), which he presented at the Ninth  International Equitation Science Conference in July last year.

Pip's bit never to be used again. Could it ever be a bit of fun?

Pip’s bit never to be used again. Could it ever be a bit of fun?

The Nevzorov Haute Ecole Research Centre is another organisation which has overseen studies by medical professionals into the effects of bits. One such study involved an experiment into the use of force applied by drawing on the reins or jerking them using a snaffle and a curb bit and featuring three different individuals: a 13-year-old boy, a 23-year-old woman, and a 43-year-old man. The experiment found that the following force was exerted per square centimetre of the horse’s mouth in contact with the bit:

  • 50 kg to 100 kg when the reins were drawn (not pulled);
  • 180 kg to 220 kg when the reins were jerked with average force;
  • more than 300 kg in the case of a strong jerk.

Not much in the way of imagination is required to picture the impact of such force on the sensitive surface of a horse’s mouth. You can find more information about this type of research in Alexander Nevzorov’s book, The Horse Crucified and Risen.



Nevzorov has also written about the effects of using bitless head gear, such as a hackamore, sidepull, bosal, mediakana, cavesson, kapcung, or Parelli or other brand of rope halter. You can find more information on this in the anthology produced by Nevzorov Haute Ecole and edited by Lydia Nevzorova entitled Equestrian Sport: Secrets of the “Art”.



Stormy May has studied some of the work carried out by professionals, such as the saddle-fitting expert, Dr Joyce Harman. A number of studies have been conducted into the effects of riding on a horse’s back. Stormy May presents the findings of some of the more pertinent ones in Chapter 3 of her book, The Path of the Horse: From Competition to Compassion and quotes Harman’s conclusion to the effect that “Pressures that exceed 0.75 psi will close down the blood flow in the arterial capillary bed” of the horse’s back, because that is the highest blood pressure found in that area. The best saddles that Harman found in her study were graded at 1.93 psi, which is more than twice the pressure required to cut off the blood flow in the capillaries of the back. According to Harman, studies of canine and human muscles have revealed that sustained pressure of a mere 0.68 psi for over two hours can cause significant superficial tissue damage as well.

Of course, saddle pressure does not only manifest itself on the surface of the horse’s back. It is actually transferred through the muscles to the bony structures. Stormy May quotes Harman as stating that, “There is surgical evidence in human medicine that subcutaneous necrosis [the death of cells] begins closer to the bone before cutaneous redness and ulceration is seen”. Transposed to the equine condition, this means that white spots or tender swelling in the saddle area are the end results of a long process of shallow and deep tissue destruction.

 Certified master saddler, Jochen Schleese, on signs of poor-fitting saddles

Interestingly enough, the effects of saddle stress need not be confined to the saddle area. A poor-fitting saddle may cause pain in the shoulder, withers and lumbar region but the effects may even manifest themselves as pain in the neck. If a horse hollows its back to escape discomfort or pain in the saddle area, there is a very good chance that it will suffer pain in the brachiocephalicus muscle, that thick, long muscle that runs along the lower part of the neck up to the atlas vertebra near the poll.


Other instruments of force

Not much imagination is required to understand the use and effects of other instruments of force, such as spurs, whips and the numerous physical restraints and devices which humans have invented to compel the horse to do what they want or to prevent the horse from doing what it wishes. They simply have no place in any healthy relationship between horses and humans.


Physical condition

If a horse is to carry itself properly, it needs to be physically fit enough to carry itself. To carry a human a horse also needs to be fit and strong enough to carry the additional weight and put up with its movements, and to achieve a posture that will facilitate this (see Posture below). If I would like to ride Pip, the very least I need to do is to ensure that she is healthy, that her feet and teeth are properly looked after, that she develops appropriate musculature and flexibility, that she walks straight and is able to carry herself. This is a prerequisite for a physically healthy life in herself and, as such, must come before any contemplation of riding. It is simply what you would do if you care for your equine friend.

Expecting Pip to carry me if she is physically unable to do so comfortably, would be tantamount to knowingly and wittingly deciding to inflict pain on my horse every time I climb on her back. Would I do this to a friend I claim I love? The situation is made more difficult by the fact that Pip has suffered severe tissue damage during her life, if the large white marks on her withers are anything to go by. Will she be able to carry me without hurting herself?

White marks on Pip's withers - sad reminders of a painful past

White marks on Pip’s withers – sad reminders of a painful past


Mental condition

There is much talk of sports horses being bred to have the keen temperament which is required for top sport, with the result that they are edgy, nervous and easily excitable. To a certain extent this is true. To a large extent it is an apology for the very conditions that humans force sports horses to live in, which are ultimately largely responsible for that very nature. Many if not most sports horses are deprived of the opportunity to live like a horse, being permanently stabled with their only respite from full-time imprisonment in a small cell (aka. stable) being a few hours of training or movement in a walker each day.

Trainers such as Nevzorov, Bevilacqua and Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling have shown that it is quite possible to train horses to perform supremely difficult physical feats without reducing them to potentially dangerous bundles of anxiety. Pip was trained and competed up to a fairly high intermediate level here in the Netherlands, which is another way of saying that for many years she was chased into the bit while largely off-balance and having her neck painfully bent as her head was pulled towards her chest in what passes for dressage in this country. The result was a mental condition that reflected the physical trauma of riding. Utterly insecure and unsure of herself, she used to be an inconsolably anxious mess when divested of the physical trappings of horse-human contact that she was accustomed to and is still prone to seeking escape in blind speed, if she feels remotely threatened. In addition, although she has not really been ridden for more than two years now and has no pain in her shoulders, she still goes through the motions of nervously nipping when I stoop to pick up her front feet, especially on the right, where she used to place the bulk of her weight.

Nevzorov: self-collection is possible without restraints and force

Will Pip be mentally prepared to accept me on her back? More importantly, will she be willing to do so? I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that I must be prepared for the fact that she will not.



A horse carries most of its weight on its front legs. Without a human on its back, this does not represent too much of a problem. Put a human on its back and it will start to carry more weight on its front legs and its shoulders than what it can comfortably support. And if that human is unable to synchronise with the horse’s movements, the situation will be immensely exacerbated and the horse will suffer more.

Hempfling: self-collection is possible without restraints and force

It is for this reason that classical dressage was developed. The theory is that by training horse and human, it will be possible for the rider to learn to synchronise their movements with the horse while simultaneously helping the horse to raise the base of its chest and to bring its hind legs further underneath its body, thereby shifting the centre of gravity more towards the rear to redistribute the weight of horse and human more evenly over its feet. The process is called self-collection or self-carriage (the horse collects and carries itself) and if it is done properly it should start from the rear and move to the front arguably leaving the head to find its own position.

Michael Bevilacqua demonstrating self-collection taught on the ground

Michael Bevilacqua demonstrating self-collection taught on the ground

As Nevzorov, Bevilacqua and Hempfling have shown, this requires training which allows the horse to seek the posture of collection rather than have the human force the horse into a frame. As such, it is very different from what you will see at dressage competitions at all levels, where the horse is essentially pulled into a frame and ridden into the bit, somewhat like accelerating a car with the brakes on. It is not for nothing that the FEI (the supreme body of equestrian sport) insists that riders use double bridles on their horses at the higher levels of competition. The awesome leverage which those devices employ makes it possible for humans to exert great pressure on the horse’s head with a minimum of effort. Remove those instruments of force and you will see very few humans who are capable of riding their horses in self-collection. Indeed, if self-carriage were to become the criterion by which dressage is judged, it is likely that equestrian sport as we know it would not survive in the absence of enough humans capable of helping a horse achieve it.

The highest point of a self-collected horse is its poll. Is this self-carriage?


Personal proof

As you may be aware, Vicki and I are currently performing Equine Touch on horses as part of our final case studies en route to becoming practitioners. By the time we are qualified we will have performed 120 Equine Touch sessions, excluding the many other horses that we have had the privilege of helping without doing so for the purposes of our studies.

When I view the detailed case notes that I have taken for all of those Equine Touch sessions, it is difficult not to conclude that riding inflicts pain on horses in most cases. An Equine Touch session does not involve a human coming in and carrying out a treatment on a horse. It is an interactive session during which we feel and watch the horse, learning from the animal just how it feels and responds to what we are doing.

Equine Touch: learning to help and understand the horse

Equine Touch: learning to help and understand the horse

I have performed Equine Touch on stallions, mares and geldings of a variety of breeds from calm Shetland ponies to stressed 18-hand warmblood sports horses involved in a diversity of activities from recreational riding to jumping and classical dressage. In the vast majority of cases the horse has shown me that it is in pain, often in the back and/or withers but predominantly in the neck and/or shoulders. I have also tried to help owners help their horses by suggesting that they get the hooves, teeth and saddles tended to. Many have done so. Others have not. Yet even where these potential problem areas are eliminated, the pain frequently returns after every ride.


Concealing the evidence

Horses excel when it comes to concealing pain or rather learning to cope with it. If they are generally treated fairly by a caring human, they are more likely to tolerate the discomfort when it occurs. Others become passive victims acquiring the learned helplessness associated with that condition. Still others resist but this is usually a one-way street to annihilation, once they are classed as “dangerous”.

Yes, it may be true that in the case of sports horses we try and stretch the animal to achieve the next level. After all, this is what we humans do when we engage in sport. I am not against horses being involved in sport. Many enjoy it. But really, should I not be asking myself whether I have the right to inflict pain on my horse in pursuit of a sport that I have chosen to indulge in, through which my ego and wallet may benefit and in relation to which my horse has absolutely no choice?


Really nice, friendly humans

So what about the humans? Surely they must be monsters, if they regularly inflict pain on the creatures they claim to love? Absolutely not! At the risk of sounding downright condescending, my experience is that, with the exception of the odd horse dealer whom I have had to contend with, the owners of the horses on which I have performed Equine Touch are really nice, friendly humans who, on the whole, want the best for their horses.

So why do I regularly end up performing Equine Touch on horses that are ridden into pain every week? Why do I regularly see horses being ridden that do not have the musculature and general physical condition to support the demands being made of them or whose hooves are in such a terrible state that it is simply a question of time before they start to experience issues in other parts of their body if they have not begun to do so already? What is it that makes a really nice, friendly human do this to the horse they claim to love?

A large part of the answer lies in ignorance. The vast majority of horse owners or riders simply are not aware of the nature of the beast that they ride. Inherent in that ignorance is the dark truth that we humans have been accepting the abnormal in our horses as quite normal for far too long. “Oh, my horse usually does that….” “Yes, my horse can be a bit naughty….” “No, it’s just that my horse is normally sensitive around the poll….” “Yes, my horse always shies away from the bridle….” “Oh, my horse usually nips when I tighten the girth….” Sound familiar?


Of methods, techniques, devices and other madness

So what is to be done, if anything? At times such as this one may be tempted to look for solutions in the form of methods, techniques, devices and anything else resembling madness. If all of them are merely designed to cause the horse to do something rather than elicit our equine friend’s commitment to being part of the solution, we may want to give that avenue a miss.

Naturally, we may then be tempted to consider the approaches adopted by those we respect for recognising the horse’s innate ability to be a partner rather than a pawn. Should we look for guidance to Mark Rashid who rides with a bit and a Western saddle responsible for pressure way in excess of what is required to close down the blood flow in a horse’s back, yet who is probably more sensitive to his horse’s needs than most? What about Hempfling, who rides bitless with a cavesson and a loose rein but who trains in a picadero of 11-15 m by 11-15 m and insists that the only way forward is that of destiny, his? Perhaps we should be emulating Nevzorov, who once vociferously castigated anyone for relying on any equipment other than a cordeo and a twig, and a training area smaller than a sizeable church? Or should we be sitting at the feet of Chuck Mintzlaff, who condemns Bevilacqua for being just another Nevzorov lackey who relies on equipment and a confined space whereas he can do without either, albeit without providing an answer to the question begged as to just how he hopes to help a horse collect itself enough to support a rider in trot and canter without compromising its health?

Chuck Mintzlaff’s Friendship Training

Stormy May suggests an alternative to everything and all. For this reason it is worth quoting her extensively:

Now the problem with riding has been detailed, let’s look at possible solutions. First, we must understand why we want to ride a horse. If the answers include, “it’s fun” “I want to compete” or “it’s good exercise” then the previous information will have little or no impact on what you do and the current horse world will give you plenty of support in pursuing your goals. If your answers sound more like, “I love horses” “I want to learn how to have a good relationship with my horse” or even “I think horses might have something to teach me” then it’s likely you’ve already started to look for alternatives to the traditional horse world.

(Path of the Horse, p. 33)


It is in the eye

And just what do those alternatives entail? Again, Stormy May suggests an answer to this question:

The solution has to begin with the premise that the horse knows her own mind, and in any matter regarding her behavior, she is the authority. Horses don’t have a spoken language we can understand but they do have a language we can learn. It is a language of physiology and movement. Once we spend enough time letting go of what we think we know about horses, we leave space for “what is” to reveal itself.

(Path of the Horse, p. 33)

Although this statement is essentially true, there is one caveat that must be mentioned. Horses may suffer from trauma-induced muscle memory, which is another way of saying that a past trauma may have induced a physical response in the horse which is still evident in its behaviour even though the original condition that triggered it may have long since healed. My Pip’s shoulder sensitivity is a classic example of this.

In essence, though, the horse does point the way forward by communicating with us and an understanding of its language is essential, if we wish to understand our equine friends. Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as some suggest. For example ears back may mean different things in varying contexts. This is a bit like a human’s use of the word “good”. Does it always mean good? What about “Good, let’s do it.”? Or “Oh, he’s good alright” when talking about a warmonger who has just invaded two countries and legitimised torture in his own? Not to mention “When she’s bad, she’s very good”. In a word, context is everything.

Context is no less significant in the way of the horse. Ears back may mean “I am pissed off”. Yet it could also mean “I am dozing” or “I am concentrating”. Other aspects of the horse’s body language and the context of your relationship with your equine friend will provide the clues as to its intended meaning. Nevertheless, if there is a single beacon which can point you in the direction of properly understanding your horse’s language of “physiology and movement”, it is likely to be the eye. In a nutshell, if it is hard and unyielding, you have a problem but, if it is soft and yielding, you are on target.

The answer is in the eye!

The answer is in the eye!


To ride or not to ride?

Vicki and I have had numerous discussions – many of them heated – about methods, techniques, devices and the approaches advanced by the gurus we turn to at times for guidance. If I have learned anything from those debates, it is that, while some of those gizmos lend themselves to abuse, it is also possible for someone riding with a bit in the horse’s mouth and a saddle on its back to be kinder and more sensitive to their mount than a well-meaning but clueless rider who bounces around on a horse’s naked back while clinging to a cordeo wrapped tightly around its upper neck.

“To ride or not to ride?”. The only creature that can answer this question in such a way that we will know that riding is entirely acceptable to our equine friend is neither you nor I but the horse.

Having said this, it has become abundantly clear to me that riding inherently poses a potential danger to the horse’s physical and mental wellbeing. For this reason I believe that any path towards riding must include contemplation of the question, “To ride or not to ride?”. The only creature that can answer this question in such a way that we will know that riding is entirely acceptable to our equine friend is neither you nor I but the horse. For this reason I have decided to approach my preparations for riding Pip on this basis: I will not ride her, until and unless she makes it clear that this is entirely acceptable to her. How will I know? The answer will be in her eye.

In this vein I would like to leave you with a lengthy quote from Stormy May, for she says it much better than I can:

As a person progresses in her understanding of horse language, with its syntax of anatomy, physiology, and psychology, there may come a time when it is appropriate to get on a horse’s back. Just as signposts point the way to a destination, I can give a hint about some of the elements that will need to be understood by the person who has endeavoured to learn enough of the horse’s language to get to a point where being astride might be a helpful step in her lessons. As a human endeavours to learn the way a horse’s body is designed, the way certain muscles, tendons, and ligaments work in concert with the skeletal structure, and the capacities and limits of these physiological elements, he will learn ways to “play” with the horse that lead to more freedom and balance for the horse. In the same way that yoga can help balance our own bodies and spirits, the person will learn the yoga which balances and frees a horse to enable her to greater expression.

The next signpost is when the person learns how to work with the horse with greater discipline, when both human and horse apply themselves to specific elements to develop the physiology of the horse and the mental focus and concentration of both horse and human. Around this time, another signpost you might notice is that the personal desire of the human to ride the horse will have naturally dropped away. A person at this level of understanding would have no more wish to bridle and saddle her equine teacher than she would to bridle and saddle her best human friend and prod her along a nice “trail ride.”

If you are at the beginning of this journey and can’t quite understand yet how a person could have a fulfilling relationship with a horse without riding, maybe it would be helpful to have a little carrot hung out to tempt you. When a human has learned the horse’s language well enough that she begins to dance with her equine partner, she collects and balances him not as the end result of pulling, tugging, and restraining, but as the result of speaking a common language, never causing pain at any point along the path; she simply learns how to dance with his movements as a partner. Only then will the horse’s anatomy reveal that he may indeed carry a human as part of the dance, on a strengthened spine that has not been weakened by hours of a rider pounding on the saddle, with muscles that are free from painful pressure sores, carried in a flexed and contracted state which leads to higher blood pressure within the muscle and the ability of this muscle to endure the pressure from a vertical load for a few minutes at a time.

(Path of the Horse, p. 35).

You may order a copy of Stormy May’s book, Path of the Horse, by visiting Our Horses. While you are there, you may want to check out this project and see what Stormy May’s horses are doing now.



19 Responses to “Towards Riding 2 – To Ride or Not to Ride?”

  1. Kelly Bick says:

    Hello Andrew

    Every blog post I think “I won’t add my 2c worth” and every post I seem to to say something!

    Below are some random thoughts that arose as I was reading your post.

    I too have been way out into the ethical wilderness of whether it is right or wrong to ride my horse…….or is it not in fact as black and white as that at all.

    I still ride, I do it because I enjoy the feeling. I make no apologies for that. It is leisurely trail rides. I am not the perfect horse person – there are many things I could do better, there are many things I could do worse. At the same time I am alter to and concerned for the wellbeing of my horse. For a long time I wondered if I was in the wrong “imposing” my riding desires on Jasper. I spent a long time looking for signs, however small that Jasper objected or was unhappy. I spent a long time wondering if I was just seeing what I wanted to see. The other day, in my mind, Jasper showed me clearly that he was ok with it all. He walked at liberty with me out of the paddock and away from his herd of 12 horses, he walked with me across the front lawn and loaded at liberty onto the truck. Whenever we load up on the truck the simple fact is that we are going riding. I am not trying to justify whether it is right or wrong to ride, each person will find their own way with this and come to their own conclusion, but I am saying – let us not beat ourselves up too much about it all. There are many shades of grey, and only you and your horse will know what is right or wrong in that moment.

    I originally was also influenced on this path of questioning by Nevzorov and his greatness and his scientific studies and proclamation that horses should not be ridden as it was physically bad for them and he had their highest welfare at heart. I took this proclamation seriously, until I discovered that Nevzorov also insists that horses should not be paddocked together, touching over a fence is ok, but not kept together – that it is better for the horses this way. There are a number of other things that Nevzorov is also quite strident about that do not fit with my concept of good and ethical horse welfare. That is not to say whether he is right or wrong, just that he does not fit with me.

    When the study of the pressure exerted by a saddle and rider are discussed, and how this pressure cuts off capillary blood circulation and starts cellular death in the muscles, the following question arises in me:
    “I used to earn a living by taking young people out hiking in the wilderness. In the course of this full time work I weighed around 58kg and regularly carried back packs in the range of 20-25kg. The packs were carried for long periods of time, day in day out.
    I know I am not a horse, but humans have the same structural make up of cells and blood vessels as horses. So why did I not suffer any pressure damage to my shoulder muscles?”

    Lastly, I wonder how much keeping a horse on large acreage paddocks, in a herd on undulating country, creating lots of regular incidental constant movement, how much that in itself keeps a horses body reasonably well self exercised and fit. How much does that null and void, if at all, all that soreness you are seeing in the horses you are treating in Europe where they are inevitably confined to stalls – or a small paddock if they are lucky.

    Anyway, just random thoughts late on a Wednesday evening.

    Continue to enjoy your journey with Pip, and thank you for continuing to prompting me to consider and think and question and mull over all things relating to horses, and in doing so continue to re assess and redefine my personal truths.


  2. Penka says:

    Dear Andrew & Vicki,

    this introspective analysis resonates within me on so many levels Not sure, how horse people can ride without wondering why we do it?

    I ride! And I probably do it because everyone else does (or “most people”do).

    I also think that we do it with good intentions and we feel that we have fulfilling relationships with our horses. They are probably (‘definitely’) more fulfilling for us then for the horse and deep down we know that the feeling can be better if truly reciprocated… Yet, is this any worse than the parent projecting his ideas or life principles on the child? The rationale is obvious – good intentions, no major harm, should help, I know it better..

    At the same time, Olympic Athletes need good Trainers to help them push the limits and challenge the perceptions of what they are capable of? Can this be the case with horses? We probably don’t need to be on their backs to do that..

    Just sharing my thoughts as I go back & forth between both spectrums of the questions “To Ride or Not”.

    Warm regards to both from Brisbane,

  3. Hello Andrew,
    Was suprised to see that I was mentioned in your Blog……..
    I just need to clarify the fact that, the relationship with my horses is not entirely based on the assumption that riding is an essential part of that ……. Firefly my Brumby pony is not lkely to ever be ridden,while she is in my care, yet we have a great time playing Games at Liberty . Sunny my Q.H. gelding has never been ridden for years, I took him on as basically a rescue horse that had foundered badly, & has a leg problem, but at times loves to do something just to show me he can do simple ground game at the walk, like the others. (His choice entirely) Now Cracker my “Riding Horse” also does great liberty Groundwork …….Plus Ridden Games with the ball, tarps, cavalletti, bending poles.and anything else I can find to make his ride/play interesting. We have been riding with only a neckstring lately in my arena, when we go out on a trail ride I walk with him for at least ten minutes, then mount on a log in the bush. I ride him out in a halter and we just wander about the beautiful bush tracks. (Just the two of us)………..So it is Riding!!!!!!……..But NOT.. No Nonsense Stuff without consideration for the animal that so many have to endure…. “I Trust Him With My Life”……..I believe the rides on Cracker are as pleasurable for him as it is for me, and he gets a lovely extra feed for his consideration & time with me……
    Hugs to All,

    • Kelly Bick says:

      ” I ride him out in a halter and we just wander about the beautiful bush tracks. (Just the two of us)………..So it is Riding!!!!!!……..But NOT.. No Nonsense Stuff without consideration for the animal that so many have to endure…. “I Trust Him With My Life”……..I believe the rides on Cracker are as pleasurable for him as it is for me, and he gets a lovely extra feed for his consideration & time with me……”

      Sounds just like our rides Peggy 🙂 Except there are 4 of us and we include (which I imagine you do too) lots of stopping-to-eat-the-grass-along-the-way breaks 🙂

      • Hi Kelly,
        Pleasing to see that your horses have a great life as well as mine.
        Enjoy your wanderings with them…..:-)…As you know horses will let you know if there is a problem with riding, or ill fitting saddlery.
        Really knowing your horses well & reading their body language & expressions takes time I guess…But it all helps…as you would know.
        Maybe easier for some than others, I am able to spend hours each day with mine & that makes a difference ……No Hurry…:-)

        I believe lot of it is just common sense, with care , comfort & consideration.

  4. alexia says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I am and have been going through this question myself for sometime – inconclusively. I want to ride again, I love the feeling and yet I don’t want to hurt my horse just for my own egotistical pleasure. I don’t want to destroy any part of the soul of my horse, let alone part of her physique by ‘acclimatizing’ her to riding. Once one’s eyes are opened they can never be closed again in ignorance and it seems doors have shut to some of the what I thought were ‘simple’ joys 🙁
    Let me know how you get on (excuse the pun!)

  5. It’s Me again Andrew,
    I decided I needed a “Bag of Nuts” one “Nutshell” wasn’t big enough.
    Just needed to add.
    Every morning I Meditate in my stable and my Horses are free to join me & they usually do,……… followed by Energy Healing with them. With heads low, yawning, licking & chewing eyes closed etc. I get my hands, arms & legs licked,hair groomed gently, a gentle nose resting on my shoulder or back or a horse cheek against my face. ….My horses know how much I love & cherish them…

    It is true I am an older no-nonsense person, but have a fair slice of “New Age” in me as well!!!!……..and I love it
    Love & Hugs to all,

  6. susan garvin says:

    Hi – a friend who subscribes regularly to your blog alerted me to this posting, since it is a subject we have discussed often. I don’t know if I can just start posting like this but I’m going to try!
    I wonder….could riding be likened, from the horse’s point of view, to this: imagine someone loves to go on bike rides and does so when s/he feels like it and when it will give them a lot of pleasure. Then along comes someone who says: well, as you can ride a bike and you enjoy it from now on you are going to ride only in a velodrome where you will go round and round as fast as you can until you are too tired and aching to enjoy even the sight of a bike again”.
    I see this being what happens to so many horses: they are willing to be ridden and enjoy it (oh yes those eat-lots-of-grass-along-the-way rides in partic!) but then unfortunately get forced into the ‘endless hard work and no real horse play ever’ existence.
    I am thankful to all those who have alerted us to the physical consequences of being careless and uncaring about our horses’ backs and bodies, and as a result of their research I now ride less frequently and for much shorter periods, and do a lot of ground work and play and gymnasticising to help my horse feel fitter and more supple, just like yoga helps my not-so-young body, so that his energy and enthusiasm might meet with mine and give us the pleasure of going out and about together without my feeling the compulsion to push him or force him where no horse would willingly care to go…
    Is this a cop-out on my part? Am I kidding myself just the same way as those who believe in rollkur are able to kid themselves that ‘it’s OK’??? I don’t know, and I’ll keep on reading the research and others’ opinions just in case I’m cheating too!
    best regards to everyone,
    Susan (a Brit living in Italy)

  7. Gary Whinn says:

    Dear Andrew,
    Like yourself and many others I have thought about this question on numerous occasions and like many here have come to the same inconclusive conclusion! I have previously read many of the references to which you refer so your summary has been a good reminder for me, pulling it all together. I just don’t know if there is a definitive answer Andrew … yes the arguments against riding from people like Nevzorov can be made to look pretty damn watertight with their scientific evidence to back it up. But I personally do not think that the empirical evidence of many horses owners therefore becomes irrelevant and I think Kelly’s observation of Jasper is just as valid in determining the rights and wrongs of your question. Widely respected horsemen such as Mark Rashid, (in spite of his continued use of the bit) show enormous kindness and consideration for the welfare and well-being of their horses. And yet as a “working cowboy” he has spent on many occasions, either working cattle or running a “dude ranch”, very long hours in the saddle…….is that an unforgivable way to behave from a man so “in tune” with horses? Do his horses back away in obvious disapproval when he approaches them with a saddle after remembering that “really long ride” yesterday? I think not. I would be interested to know his view on this subject – has he spoken about it to your knowledge? And I would be interested to hear the views of any endurance riders who read your blog …what are their observations of their horses reactions to being ridden for such long periods? And has it resulted in the need for constant physiotherapy for the horse to combat the effects of the resulting tissue damage? My feeling (OK my imaginative speculation) is that it often comes down to the specific combination of horse and rider and were it possible to interview all horses on the subject there would be just as many who said they enjoyed carrying their rider and felt no ill effects as there would be horses complaining about a sore back and associated ailments. Yes, it could be just wishful thinking on my part as on balance I would like to ride. For the moment as you can gather from this comment, I am sitting on the fence and I look forward to hearing more about what others have to say and of course, in time, the conclusion that you come to with Pip. Thank you Andrew for posing this very important question.

  8. Dear Andrew,
    Inspired by Gary’s posting I decided to put some of my thoughts on ‘paper’.

    We humans are on a journey of self-discovery…or at least some kind of ‘discovery’. Many visitng India’s ashrams hoping to find answers to their questions. Or in Europe for example Mooji’s satsangs or online Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful video clips on YouTube
    Sometimes these questions are clearly defined, sometimes these questions are being felt as a feeling of slight discomfort. When the discomfort is not recognized as a question that wishes to be answered the discomfort can in the end turn into dis-ease.

    Often in such a situation of dis-ease human turns to a ‘healer’. A ‘regular’or an ‘alternative’ healer. And slowly slowly the ‘lampshade’ that has been covering human’s ‘light/awareness’ gets lifted. Hopefully. When that light starts to shine on human’s surroundings life gets a totally different ‘face’.
    That not only happens to life of human itself, but also to life surrounding human.

    One thing human starts to grasp and feel and experience and love is the meaning of the power of NOW.
    And with this knowledge it also starts to understand horse better. It makes it possible for human to start ‘listening’ to horse. To not only understand but more so respect and accept horse’s reflections as it tells human so much about herdbehaviour. At the same time telling human so much about himself.

    Afterall horse is all in the NOW already.

    Would it not be wonderful to ‘see’ and accept and respect that horse is on a similar quest.
    How about horse having decided aeons ago to ‘connect’ with human resulting from a deepfelt wish to become aware.
    As there are different people with different levels of awareness, there are horses with different levels of awareness.
    As there is increasing dis-ease amongst humans, there is increasing dis-ease among horses.
    As there are more and more people turning to ‘alternative’ healers, more and more horses are being treated by ‘alternative’ healers.

    Would it not be wonderful to start realizing and accepting and respecting that you and I being ‘alternative’ healers have more to do than ‘treat’ horse and human. Your blog playing an important part in ‘have more to do’.

    Then the question is not about ‘riding or no riding’.
    What if ‘riding’ is part of horse’s wish to become aware? What if by denying horse’s wish to be ridden human denies horse to evolve? Would that in the core not be an equally cruel act as riding a horse that does NOT wish to be ridden?

    And would it not be almost a natural consequence that dis-ease occuring in human when not listening to its inner voice will also occur in horse when horse is not being listened to its inner voice.

    Horse is familiar with the NOW. Has always been.
    Human is not and wishes to become familiar so it can understand horse better. Human so wishes to understand horse better.
    Human learning and understanding how things work in the world of horse.

    Human is familiar with riding. Has always been.
    Horse is not and wishes to become familiar so it can carry and understand human even better.
    Horse so wishes to understand human better.
    Horse learning and understanding how things work in the world of human.

    Just like human also at the same time learning and understanding how things work in the world of human.
    And horse also at the same time learning and understanding how things work in the world of horse.

    Back to the theme of your blog.
    If riding is part of horse’s quest why deny it to explore and proceed and evolve and become more aware whilst being ridden.
    Human would find it intolerable to be denied exploring, proceeding and evolving and becoming more and more aware.

    Message from Pip for Andrew
    “Keep an eye on Anaïs, she needs you”

  9. Jade Martin says:

    Hello Andrew,
    Thank you for including me in your posts, and for the compliments 🙂 I feel like you have taken all of the thoughts inside my head about this subject and written them down in a blog, it is very handy ( and revealing) to see it all set out like this.
    The first thing that comes to mind is that there needs to be more unbiased scientific research into the effects of riding on the horse. Both short-term and long-term, all kinds of riding styles, tackless vs with tack, durations of ride etc. Another thing to research would be the effects of starting the horse later in life, i.e when completely mature. And whether this makes a difference when it comes to riding. Hopefully, this would lead to a more responsible approach to riding for people who still think that it is a necessary part of the horse-human relationship.
    The second thing that comes to mind is that, although this can be an extensive and difficult topic, the basis of it is very simple. Go and ask your equine partner. In the end, it’s always going to be about the relationship and doing what works for the individual horse-human partnership. For example, Cisco and I decided a while ago that riding is not something either of us find enjoyable to do together. So it is something we will never do. Dougie is only just three, so I will not present the concept of riding to him for a few years yet. Maybe when he is seven or eight, I will ask how he feels about it. It will be up to him. For now we have so many other activities to explore together 🙂

    Keep well, Andrew and Vicki! Please give Pip and Anais a scratch for me 🙂

  10. Glenn Wilson says:

    Hello Andrew

    I have been quietly observing this discussion for a while now and have been very interested in where it is going. And I’m sure it (the question) will never be totally resolved.

    To ride or not to ride (TRONTR) – that IS the question. It’s like the question of ‘to drink or not to drink’. Your answer may be different from my answer, but they are both based on our own personal truths. The answer to TRONTR for me is holding my needs up against the horse. And if there is not too much of a compromise going on then to ride with care, and consideration that the activity will not cause damage to the horse.

    Of course there will be an impact or effect on the horse. Whether it is detrimental is the key to TRONTR. Unfortunately we see that the horse in many instances of being ridden IS damaged. Just read forums and online articles about treating sport horses ailments and injuries and for many this is just commonplace. And you no doubt have treated too many horses that have been ridden into injury. In these situations I would say that the question is answered by NOT riding. I’m sure the industries and participants in these disciplines would take a lot of notice of that advice – NOT!

    In my/our situation it is just a day to day assessment of TRONTR. Usually I put my needs a smidge ahead of the horse’s. Macgregor often shows a lack of interest in having the halter put on, and of being brushed down in preparation for the saddling. But he does load up in the truck with ease. He does stand next to the log or mound of dirt for me to clamber onboard and he waits for the ‘let’s go’ signal. He also knows that we are usually headed for some nice grass down the trail. So there is something in it for him too.

    The TRONTR question has been on my mind for a while and a few years back I wrote this – http://www.waterfallcreek.com.au/Open-Attachment/51/The%20Big%20Question%20PDF.pdf Simple question with no clear cut answer apart from listening to one’s inner, intuitive voice, and knowing your horse.

    Now I would add, “Listen to your horse, and yourself, and if all is good then get on with it”.

    Enjoy the experience.


  11. Lina Sundquist says:

    Hello! I’ve recently discovered your blog (I don’t remember how), and am very intrigued to find someone who writes about several of the different horsemen I am familiar with and/or curious about. It was enlightening to read about the business side of K.F. Hempfling. A few years ago, I want to say maybe about a year or two years before several people fled Alexander Nevzorov’s forum (NHE), I was a member. It was an exercise in futility to get any practical information there. It was mostly people, including moderators, waxing philosophical (I’ll get to the point about your topic about not riding soon). If a question wasn’t asked in just the right way, in the right tone, one would be banned or get a verbal beating. For me it was an exercise in how to formulate questions to people who had incredibly specific requirements in how you asked a question, or to figure out which questions one was allowed to ask. I was eventually sent to the cyberspace Gulag when I asked (after much thought about HOW I should ask) if anyone, and who, had ever visited the Nevzorovs and witnessed Alexander working with horses first hand. To me it was obvious that the horses in the videos in which he rode with only the cordeo, were the same horses he had used a bridle and bits on previously. I have seen many people who have trained their horses the “traditional” way if you will… with saddles and bridles, be able to work beautifully with their horses bareback and with a halter or just a rope (cordeo) around their neck. They already knew the movements. I can do this to some extent myself with my own trail horses, as can a few of my fellow trail riders – these are not riders who compete in any way shape or form, or do haute ecole, but simply, they have ridden their horses in saddles and bridles and can then take it all off and the horses know the commands because they come from trust, the seat, the legs, the intention, etc. etc. Anyway, I did get a couple of responses to my question about who had had the “privilege” of working with Alexander personally, right before I was banned. And the answer was basically, with much ado on their end about trying to write in the most convoluted, pseudo-philosophical manner, how did I “dare” ask such a question, why would I want to know such a thing, etc. I knew by asking it, that I would probably get banned. Such was the eastern block thinking of that blog. Don’t ask the wrong question or you’ll get sent away, never to be heard from again!

    Ok, so, the last I heard, on the Art of Natural Dressage website, was that people, including the die-hard “approved” trainers and moderators, that once Nevzorov declared that horses living in herds were “stupid” and that he kept his horses absolutely separate from each other or they wouldn’t learn a thing, they all left, en masse. Finally, I read, there as well, that he had decided to stop riding completely, and that of course this shouldn’t have surprised anyone, since he advocated riding for 15 minutes, because any riding, even for a second, was cruel to the horse.

    So, to ride or not to ride? As far as Nevzorov, I think he’s full of horse-s^%t. Of course he has some talent, but less so than Hempfling, 100% less than Mark Rashid, and several of completely unknown horsemen and women I know personally. It seems to me that the whole scientific thing, while it made many, many valid and enlightening points, was really what he was all about. It was as if horses were one great big scientific experiment to him. Because he found A, B, or C in his “studies”, it meant that riding, or using a bit, or a saddle or whatever, was absolutely detrimental in every way to the horse. Horses have spirit, will, emotion, intelligence. He left all that aside. He paid some lip-service to it, but it was one great big scientific experiment with no real useful application in real life. It was just a pure looking-down upon people who can’t do caprioles and leaves with their horses, with or without tack, as people who should have nothing to do with them. Oh what he could have taught the rest of the horse world if he and his wife weren’t such arrogant a-holes. The greatest horsemen are humble and quiet, and don’t berate other people but instead truly try to help them, try to make them think. Nevzorov is done with his scientific experiment, that is all – he’s moved on to become “guru” or “authority” of something else.

    Ok, this was a bit of a tirade, and I do apologize. I’ve never been able to write this anywhere, because there are no forums or blogs that really talk about him anymore – and for me he was the first public horse person who talked about not riding anymore, so I did think about it. The Not To Ride question – of course horses if left in the wild shouldn’t be ridden. But they are domesticated now. They are with us. The BLM here in the U.S. is rounding up Mustangs and auctioning them or sending those that don’t sell to slaughter. If we weren’t allowed to use the horse in riding or in work in some way, do you think ANY horses would be left anywhere by now? Personally I don’t think so.

    Finally, (phew!), do YOU, or anyone here, know first hand that Nevzorov, or even Hempfling, ever trained a horse from foal to adult, to do Haute Ecole, without using any pressure/release, bits, saddles, or tack of any kind? I really would like to know. Because that would be a beautiful thing, and it WOULD be something I would like to learn… if not Haute Ecole, then to be able to ride a horse completely free of anything, out in nature.

    Hope this hasn’t been too much of a post for my first one! I am devouring all your articles – all are so well written and interesting… a rarity in the horse world I’d say.


  12. Lina Sundquist says:

    Meant to say “levades” in my post above but my spell check “corrected” it to “leaves”.

  13. Lina Sundquist says:

    To Gary Whinn:

    You had asked in your post above, about observations from endurance riders of their horses, ridden such long distances. I have an Arab mare and ride endurance – 30 and 50 milers. While I see many horses on these rides that have no business being there (they aren’t fit enough, the riders ride them so hard that they require intravenous fluids and can get in real physical trouble, they use shanks or martingales, etc.), most riders care deeply and are knowledgeable enough to not let their horses run like crazy and take great pride in keeping their horse’s minds and bodies in top condition and safe. That is the point of endurance riding – at least for me and those endurance riders I know personally. Many, many of them are veterinarians. In fact, I’m floored by how many vets ride endurance! My horse, NOT a high-strung Arab, yet sensitive (and an ex-race horse), KNOWS when we are on an endurance ride vs. going on a trail ride with a group of people. She is “hot” at the start, so I leave last, alone. Yet we finish in the top 3 most of the time. This is her “job”. I feel that she knows it and absolutely loves it. She paces herself once we get going. She eats and drinks like crazy the night before, and during the vet checks. She always, always has “A” scores on her body. It is the most “in-tune” we can be, on these rides, aside from going on training rides solo. She gets acupuncture, massage, etc etc, lots of time off, etc. If for one minute I felt it was detrimental to her, I wouldn’t do it. There’s no money in endurance. There’s no glory, except the glorious feeling of being out there with your horse and your horse wants to go. She comes back from these competitions in great shape. I always have a vet check her about a week later, to make sure there is nothing going on. I don’t know what else to say. Conditioned response? Perhaps. She was a race horse. Like barrel racing horse who can’t wait to run out the gate, like reigning horses who know the pattern. Of course, there is some of that. But perhaps they feel some sense of what we call “pride”… that this is what they “do”, and they like it because we give them kudos for it by leaving them alone afterwards for awhile. I don’t know the answer. I can only tell you that my horse gets a sore back if I ride her only twice a week; but if I ride her on long trail rides and the occasional endurance ride, she does not. Isn’t it like us a bit?: If I don’t do yoga or stretch, even when I hurt, it just gets worse. If I do it often enough, even though it’s sometimes difficult and slightly painful… I feel much, much better and am then pain free and limber, and more confident that I can do more physical activity. Perhaps it’s the same with horses. I’m putting aside all the idiots who use abuse or excessive force, this goes without saying. I’m talking about like-minded people like those who post on this blog.


    • Gary Whinn says:

      Dear Lina,
      Thank you very much for your full and frank response to my question about endurance riding. Your account of your experience is a thoughtful addition to the debate, as is your view on Nevzorov. I would like to draw your attention to something which I think will be of great interest to you in view of your comment: “Finally, (phew!), do YOU, or anyone here, know first hand that Nevzorov, or even Hempfling, ever trained a horse from foal to adult, to do Haute Ecole, without using any pressure/release, bits, saddles, or tack of any kind? I really would like to know. Because that would be a beautiful thing,” I do not know if Hempfling or Nevzorov have ever done this but I do know of an example of this which is described beautifully in her blog by a young woman called Elsa Sinclair. She took one of the mustangs from the BLM programme in the US and did exactly that, not to do Haute Ecole but to do something arguably far more impressive. She “trained” or rather more accurately said, developed a relationship with this horse over the period of a year without the use of any aids or “methods”….no halters, no ropes, no round pens, no tack of any kind….she was very familiar with Parelli and other training “methods” but she quickly left all of that knowledge behind her and set out on a voyage of true self discovery, learning more about herself and her relationship with horses than she ever thought possible….truly experiencing the horse as her teacher. She is a very sensitive, intelligent person with a real skill for writing and she communicates the whole process in a monthly blog. I think you would find it a fascinating read.
      Not sure if this works as a clickable hyper-link but you can cut and paste this into your address bar. Welcome to the Andrew’s Blog “community”! http://equineclarity.wordpress.com/2011/01/

  14. What I want to say would take a very long post, if not a new book. I want to try to make this as short and concise as possible – if possible.

    First, to Lina, I understand your experience on the intitial NHE forum. I was there and I did not last long. As you state at the end of your post of April 29, “I’m putting aside all the idiots who use abuse or excessive force, this goes without saying. I’m talking about like-minded people like those who post on this blog.” How do you think Alexander and Lydia felt about people who completely ignored the rules at the front door to the forum? That is why things got so out of hand. In the early days, there were very few like-minded people. That has certainly changed.

    Andrew and Vicki, in creating this blog, have put themselves forward in a way that few people would – with honesty. Andrew steps back and questions. He then puts it out there for all the world to see.

    There is no question about riding a horse being bad for a horse. However, the question remains about riding – and, subsequently, it has nothing to do with the horse but the people.

    There are studies of horse spines, throughout thousands of years, and they all have the same damage as modern horses. It should be no surprise because it is we who are continuously upon their backs.

    I am kind of surprised that some are looking for examples of horses who have been raised from a foal without force. This is not uncommon. A colleague from work (nothing to do with horses) showed a video on his phone of his family from Belgium playing with a pony in a field of snow. They were out there doing some other work and the pony just happened to be there – following them. I saw the video and how they played with the horse and it was totally ‘NHE’ – despite the fact that they know diddly about NHE. There si an NHE Facebook page that does have videos of horses raised without pressure or equipment (ex: Fred Ivar -Norway)

    I made a tacky, home-made video to go along with my book that was like a ‘special features’ video along with movies. In it, I did say that, sometimes, trying to explain this to people was like trying to explain how to love.

    After my book, I wrote two years’ of articles based on stuff from my book. The first one is entitled, ‘Mismatched Socks’. It had to do with Alexander’s comment about horses being ‘stupid’ in a herd. It is very clear to him, but I had to explain it. Further, despite all the (limited) info, even back then, I found that people also generalized and would forget all that was going on and focus on one phrase or statement. It was like me announcing a cure for cancer and what subsequently appeared in newspapers and TV was that my socks were mismatched.

    There was once a big debate about castration for horses within NHE. Sure, you can respect the horse and not interfere or impose your will. Alexander’s stallion can go out with other horses, but is certainly divided by a fence (from the mare). There are some people who wanted to abide by the horse and did not castrate stallions but also left them out in the ‘herd’. There is a recent case where a handful of horses are now 85 horses, that certainly can no longer be taken care of. Principles are good. So is common sense.

    Yes, I am still perhaps known as the Senior Rep for NHE. That is not why I am writing here. Andrew and Vicki were at my seminar and Andrew wrote his direct take on it. It was honest and I did learn from it. We had personal conversations and he knows where I am coming from and he understands a lot more than he realizes.

    It still surprises me that he, and others, differentiate me from NHE. I find that it is the same message. Yet, I have been uncomfortable in the past few years because, Alexander has moved way beyond but I still support and encourage people, even if their only major decision, is to use a bitless bridle. 2013 was my last seminar, and, yet, it was like a chapter from the past of NHE. Riding was still possible, if only in natural collection.

    People reading here are smart and have acquired a lot of info. Still, I could not expect people to suddenly stop riding. There has to be a progression, personal awareness – a transition. I went through it!

    If riding is all that is left to question, then we have made a huge advance in a very short time. If violence and pressure or coercion has been taken off the horse, then that is a very important, magnanimous step.

    Thank you, Andrew, and all readers for letting me get this off my chest. I wish you all the best in your journey.

    Michael Bevilacqua

  15. Lina Sundquist says:

    Just really quick – wanted to say thank you so much Michael for your thoughtful reply. I want to write a thoughtful response but don’t have time tip later today maybe. And Andrew, I couldn’t find where to post a reply on the page that shows you working the first steps towards collection with Pip, but just wanted to say, again quickly 🙂 that it was a joy to watch!