Icelandic Horse Connection

European Riding vs American Riding

I've never spent time in Europe except for a brief tour of Paris last year.....but I just had a family staying in my guest house from Holland for a week and we had some interesting discussions about horse training.

The dad rides regularly at a riding stable there and has only ridden in an english saddle. His english (language) wasn't as good as his son's or wife's but I was able to understand that he had always wanted to sit in a western saddle to compare. So, I let him mount Indigo with my Fallis saddle.

The first thing he did was gather the reins (sidepull) up really tight (this was after he tried to get over the fact that there was NO bit!) and Indigo was immediately offended.

Right away, I took hold of the reins and said "loose - loose reins" and shook them loose. His eyes got HUGE and almost panicked - "LOOSE??? LOOSE????" he said like that was not only unheard of but impossible.

So, then he had no idea how to maneuver without being able to crank his head all around. I told him to use his leg, which he is used to - but not without rein. He just rode him around for a couple of minutes and I said, "OK, tell him to take you to the block (mounting block)".

He started towards the block but then the guy was giving him confusing signals and trying to gather the reins up again. So, I loosened the reins again and pointed to the side of my forehead and said "Think it and he'll go there".

So, bless his heart, that's just what he did, and at that point it involved backing up and moving sideways but they did it beautifully. The guy was elated! He said he's never seen anything like that and explained that in Europe (at least in his experience) riding involves a very tight rein and fighting with the horse continuously.

He said he never feels safe for one minute because the horses cannot be trusted. It's always a matter of keeping them "controlled". So, I proceeded to play some games with Indigo and had him do his leg lifting trick which had them in hysterics taking pictures like crazy.

And I explained that there are those here in this country with a different training philosophy that involves gaining the cooperation of the horse as opposed to forcing. He had never heard of such a thing and said, "I like this philosophy!"

The next day, my neighbor, Mel, went riding by ponying a 2 yr old. The dad was watching intently and afterwards said with awe, "Earlier there was a cowboy who went by relaxed and the horse it was relaxed and with a loose rein" and he was shaking his head in amazement.

I really think that whole experience was one of the highlights of his trip. Angela
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