June 25, 2018
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Bringing out the inner masterpiece

Photo by Jesse Schwarcz | BDN
Photo by Jesse Schwarcz | BDN
Cassie Elia and My Alibi, also known as Rocket.
By Cassie Elia, Special to the BDN

With each of the horses that have been entrusted to me for training, I wish I had made before and after videos. One would think that after 13 years, I would eventually remember to do that.

Most of the time, the work I do with the horses is solo and I am always impressed by what horses are capable of doing and learning and wish that I had some documentation.

Each horse that comes in like a hunk of marble. It is my job to chip away at the stuff that’s blocking the beauty within and let that horse show it’s true form. Horses are a work of art on their own, but with polish they become masterpieces.

Training a horse means helping the horse to be relaxed and trust a rider and to follow cues that lead to a harmonious relationship. Horses have a confounding ability to learn and simultaneously be tremendously forgiving. It is my responsibility, and that of all riders, to recognize that and not try to bend a horse to your will but to learn to communicate in a way that the horse understands.

Things are not always flowery and fun. There’s a lot of grit, sweat, mistakes and countless hours of thought involved. Sometimes the horses rebel against the training and it’s not pretty. It can take some ingenuity to figure out how I can show those horses that if they would just give it a try, they’d see it’s not so hard and actually kind of fun — kind of like life in general.

Even on days when things don’t go as planned, the next day that horse is right there willing to try again. What other animal allows us to not just ride it, but push it to it’s limits as an athlete, asking it to trot differently, use particular muscles, pick its feet up higher or keep them down lower and to leap over obstacles that it can not even see over, carrying 150 or more pounds of rider?

It is absolutely incredible that horses allow us to put a metal bit in their mouths, put them in horse trailers and drive them around, ask them to jump over things when there is clearly all kinds of room to go around, plod for hours around a dusty ring and all manner of foolish activities.

No one should ever take a horse for granted. You may have the most wretched ride of your life on a horse, yet why should that horse behave a certain way for anyone? What’s in it for the horse? Who asked the horse if it would like to go riding or would rather stay in the field? Nobody, that’s who. It’s a wonder that more horses don’t toss us like a kid flinging his backpack after school.

Thank you to all of the horses that have taught me more than any book or teacher or instructor, that have allowed me to sit on their backs and ask them to do things, and thank you to all of the people that have trusted me to refine their horses and chip away at their marble blocks.

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