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  Why do horses do this? - Kindly written for World of Horses by Karry Gardner
Dear Readers

Why is it that animals can have you in the very depths of despair one moment and in the very next moment you feel so elated that you could easily conquer the world ? !

We have struggled with Tia for the best part of six weeks now , the napping and the rearing , the bolshie attitude to things and then in the space of a forty minute workout, she seemed to say:

"Hoh ! Hok-kay, I sink zat I understand you now. Vey did you not ask zis to me in ze first place, hmmm? Zo, you vant me to bend to ze right  - well hok-kay, I do zat for you , nurt because I vant to but because I like you and I like ze food in zis ‘otel !."
Why do horses do this to us ?
We have been through the plethora of gadgets available to us, dismissing those more outlandish ones and finally settling on the dreaded running reins, which for me is a bit like trying to knit fog. How is it that I can cope with a double bridle but draw reins make me feel like I’m trying to ride a bicycle with my hands crossed.

Incidentally, I notice that no one from BD has contacted me via the World of Horses site to tell me just why rein-back is included in Novice 37 so I assume two things : either no one from British Dressage bothers to read anything I write or that no one out there understands why either.

Anyway, I’ve got questions for you all out there in cyberhorseland because you have to appreciate that I am now a complete novice again where horses are concerned because no one handed me an instruction booklet when I bought Tia . If they did, it’s definitely in Portuguese and were it not for Tia’s previous owners, I would have no knowledge whatsoever about my mares 'previous' . Fortunately, they have been more than forthcoming when assisting me with Tia’s prior history for which I am very grateful indeed.

So for those of you out there who buy a horse, when things go a bit wrong, never feel afraid to contact the previous owners for advice because any input you get from them can be of the greatest help .

I bought a book by Sylvia Loch about the Royal Horse of Europe and I was able to establish the extent of Tia’s noble bloodlines and breeding. She has far better ancestry than me which is probably why she has chosen to ignore me for the last 6 weeks and who can blame her ?

It was an illuminating book which stated just how different, how sensitive and how clever Lusitanos are (and Iberians in general for that matter) and it made me look at my horse in a totally new light.

I loved MGB to the ends of the earth but she was never a mystery to me. I knew that Graham Fletcher had bred her to show jump, she had lost her nerve and ended up at a trekking centre which closed down. MGB had a special talent for ditching people in the depths of the countryside and then galloping home . That’s where the Boss found her as a four year old (at the trekking centre) and I then found her lodged with Small Boss and Big Boss after that. She became my best friend; we had both been declared failures in some way or another and we both went on to prove lots of people very wrong indeed.

The greatest compliment MGB was paid was that had she been 17.3 instead of 15.3, then the Boss would have kept her for himself .

By contrast, Miss Tia Maria has bloodlines going back several centuries; she comes from such noble beginnings I suspect that she would like me to genuflect each morning when I greet her and place her apple upon a golden salver for her delectation. I admit, that sometimes I am overawed by her and that can cloud my otherwise, quite rational judgement, after all, a horse is just a horse, right?

I have had a bending issue which has meant that Tia would not bend to the right without having a nervous breakdown.. She wanted to bend her neck to the left whilst working right and no amount of persuasion could change her mind about doing so .

Horses will use all kind of evasions to avoid doing something that causes them pain or distress and sometimes it’s not real pain but the very memory of pain that causes problems. Tia’s evasions were worthy of some of the great bullfighting horses of the past which meant some really spectacular leaps sideways, hopping on her hind legs in ' levade' , just like a Spanish Riding School stallion and even sometimes a capriole where she launches herself through the air, kicks back mid flight and lands safely like 'Shutterfly', the show jumping horse all prospective Olympic riders seem covet at the moment. Her athletic ability really is something else.

So why don’t Iberian horses do better at International level dressage when they are so capable ?

The problem is, I find, that they are of another time and age. The movements they perform are done in enclosed spaces like battlefields and bullrings, unlike the big, ground covering warm bloods bred initially for carriage driving until crossed with thoroughbreds and then re-labelled sport horses when horses were no longer needed for war.The talent shown by these warm bloods whose ability to use up space in the arena seems to be more important to modern judges than the intricate and joyful steps of a true 'high school horse'.

Iberian horses can collect, they can lower their backs and show true piaffe and passage , they can be ridden one handed because they don’t lean into the contact and because, when trained, they are truly light in front and in self carriage . The big warm bloods can cover the ground in fabulous floating, toe flicking extensions in trot but look at the collected paces and they don’t really manage it in the same way that the short-coupled Iberian horses do . (I must remind you here that MGB was a short coupled collected horse who showed 'little extension' so I am not banging a drum for Iberian horses per se).

I had a discussion with The Boss today about judging and he said, quite rightly, that in an ideal situation, when competing, the only horse that you compete against is your own . The judge should look at the horse as an overall picture; the horse and rider as a team ; entities in their own right and judge the movements using the scales of training. I fear that many judges don’t do this and either consciously or more hopefully, sub-consciously, judge horses against each other. But I’ve written for judges in the past and know that this is not always the case.

So why am I having a rant ? Well, I’ve got a mental list of judges who won’t like my mare because of what she is so I should avoid taking her to competitions where these judges are in attendance, or should I ?

I might ignore the list because I think that there is a place in the ranks for horses who can collect and also those that work best in extension without having to separate the two types and I believe (maybe I am naive) that one can be judged fairly against another.

Charlotte has informed me that Tia is ready to compete before the year is out now that rein back is no longer an issue, I think it’s time to bring it on for Iberian horses .

Wish me luck ya’ll ; And to all those owners of warm bloods, I don’t have a thing against them at all (Bonfire is a hero of mine along with Barbiere ) it’s just that when you are a five foot three dwarf with legs that barely reach Mother Earth, sitting on a big moving warm blood is like trying to sit on a large moving building without falling off it .

Next time I’m coming back as a svelte 5.8" , skinny as hell and with legs that go on forever but with my luck, even if I was given the perfect body I would probably be allergic to animals and horses in particular .

You can’t win, at least, not 365 days of the year !

PS. If you would like to explore the possibility of buying a Lusitano, please Google Sherene Ramatallah at Sussex Lusitanos. No, I’m not on commission !!!!

Until next time...

Karry Gardner
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