by Fernando Cardenas, DVM

Maybe all sports are “complicated”. And surely Life, itself, is “complicated.
But this much I know to be true: Horseback riding is a very complicated sport.
Not every horse-lover knows that, when he decides to purchase a horse.
Anyone who has owned a horse for any length of time, however, does know that.
Guaranteed: stick with it long enough and you’re bound to learn that, too.

Nature and Nuture play important roles in defining the equine’s potential, but the making of an equine champion requires far more than genetics and love. Winning in the show ring occurs at the point where horse and rider work willingly together, but… only if they can understand each other!

Outside the show ring is another story.
It begins with the breeding. Every experienced breeder knows conformation an temperament of the horse are a good start. Every honest breeder will tell you: but that’s all it is: a good start.

And every veterinarian knows that prompt and correct application of medicine can both prevent and heal injuries. But every wise veterinarian will also tell you it: paramount to healing is also “the right” nutrition .

The best trainers in any equine discipline know : a correctly fitted saddle can be like a secret weapon, freeing the horse at the shoulder and allowing movement without pain.
Correct fit is something which cannot be learned in a text-book.

Now, back to the show ring where things get even more complicated because it is readily apparent IF….horse and rider do understand each other.
Sure, a very talented rider, can ride any horse.
Sure, a very talented horse, can make any rider look good.
Going “the distance” together is, well, in a word “complicated”.
Ultimately, their mutual success will depend on their deep and abiding communication. This, is achieved by the correct use of the aids.

And what are those?
Just ask any horse. He’ll tell you.
To the rider, correct use may appear to be delicate dance moves.

To the horse, correct aids will be like magic.
His body language and performance will complement each other.
Good-bye to ring souring, head-bobbing, snatching reins away from the rider, shying, bucking, rearing , and…hello to the docile, willing partner who not only executes, but also anticipates the rider’s every command correctly.

To have the sport become less a mystery, more a mastery, and far less “complicated”, we need to remember this:
1. The horses we ride are made of more than blood, bones and flesh.
2. They mysteriously hold our dreams and desires., but have minds of their own and many opinions!
3. Horses neither know nor care how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers we have. They know only partnership.

Partnership is built through communication, correct use of the aids, and compliance with each other’s wishes. “The keys to really good riding are a person’s character and attitude, patience and staying power.” G. Heuschman