To help guide you to a deeper relationship with your horse.
The New Age of Equitation
The female influence
For at least five-thousand years, the equine world revolved around herding, hunting, farming, freight, and war; and was considered a man’s domain. The secrets surrounding training and riding these huge beasts were carefully passed from man to man since long before Greek General Xenophon wrote his book on the handling and care of warhorses over two thousand years ago. Women were not known to be key players in the field of equitation except for a few trendy aristocrats or circus performers. However, after the advent of the internal combustion engine men moved away from horses and traded their reins for steering wheels. The void created by the retreat of the male influence is being filled by women.
Isabella Bird Bishop, perhaps the most famous female explorer and trail-rider, traveled the world by horseback during the last part of the 1800’s. At that time, Isabella was in her 60’s. Now, women by the thousands are following Isabella’s example. On any given day, the majority of the riders on the trails across America are women. It is women who, day in and day out, nourish, and are nourished by their proximity to horses. To these women, it is the horses themselves that they love.
The impact women are having on the equestrian world is enormous. The public’s response to Anna Sewell’s 1877 novel, “Black Beauty” led to the creation of the SPCA. Not too long ago, canned dog food made of horse-meat was standard fare on super-market shelves. But, women such as Velma Bronn Johnston (Wild Horse Annie), are actively interceding on behalf of America’s Mustangs and other “unwanted” horses to stop their uncontrolled removal and destruction. Non-profit horse rescue organizations are often founded by women who see the benefit of taking second jobs to provide food and shelter for starving horses.
In the 1900 Summer Olympics the first woman, Elvira Guerra, a famous circus rider, represented Italy in a hunter/hack demonstration event (she placed ninth. It wasn’t until the 1952 Summer Olympics at Helsinki, that women were allowed to ride in the dressage competition. That year Lis Hartel of Denmark took individual silver. Ms. Hartel was not only a woman, she was paralyzed from the knees down (from polio) and pregnant! She also took silver in 1956 Summer Olympics.
In 2012, approximately half of the Olympic equestrian competitors were women. The number one dressage rider in the world in 2014 is a female, Adelinde Cornelissen. Including Adelinde, seven of the international top ten dressage riders, and six of the top ten international show jumping riders are women. Even the 2014 Tevis Cup winner was a woman, Heather Reynolds. The Western riding disciplines have also seen women rising to the top of male-dominated disciplines. Mary Jo Milner is a six-time NCHA Non-Pro World Champion cutting horse rider. In the horse-racing industry, women have become familiar faces as owners, trainers, and jockeys.
As technology changed during the 20th century, movies and television began introducing women equestrians into a world dominated by cowboys. Those programs allowed horse-crazy girls to dream and many pursued those dreams to become the female equestrian leaders of today. The
impact of this influx of women in the horse world created by Dale Evans-Rogers in the “Roy Rogers” TV series, Gail Davis as “Annie Oakley”, Megan on “My Little Pony” and the Amy Fleming character played by Amber Marshall in “Heartland” must be acknowledged.
It truly is the female touch that is ultimately changing the equestrian world. Many innovations brought forth by female equestrians have proven to be effective and are shifting the way we interact with, train, care for, and ride horses.
In the 1970’s Linda Tellington Jones introduced TTouch, a new way of relating to, and training horses through understanding horse behavior, touch, movement, and body language. Linda has written 21 books and holds clinics world-wide.
Alexandra Kurland began clicker training her horses in the 1990’s. Her books, videos, and clinics have taught thousands to use positive reinforcement to communicate with and teach their horses.
German veterinarian, Dr. Hiltrud Strasser, after studying the feet of wild horses, developed a barefoot trimming method that has transformed the public’s knowledge of horse hooves. Her students and books have prompted many in the United States and Europe to remove the iron shoes that have been the traditional domesticated equine footwear so that their horses can go barefoot.
Sally Swift wrote two books about Centered Riding, a technique for obtaining the perfect riding position which combines yoga, T’ai chi, and martial arts to increase the balance and effectiveness of riders. Although Sally Swift died in 2009, her technique is now considered the standard for riders of all disciplines.
These women and many more, have given us a new outlook on equitation. At the Equine Behavioral Health Resource Center (EBHRC) we teach equestrians about horse intelligence, behavior, and communication. We use the alpha mare approach. We break down the horse-human communication barrier and encourage a bond with the horses based on empathy, encouragement, and support so that horses will be relaxed, focused, self-confident, and confident in their human friend. We teach horses to match feet with us when we are at their side and riders how to ride bitless, only using our energy, weight aids, and the position of hips, shoulders, and legs to invite our horses to match positions, gaits, and strides with us. Horses enjoy the time they spend with people at EBHRC.
In many ways women are re-inventing the horse-human relationship. It may not happen overnight, but the female approach appears to be having incredible results and reflects the nurturing, empathetic manner that is the hall-mark of the alpha mare.
Chris Forté is the owner of the Equine Behavioral Health Resource Center.
2015 BITLESS RIDING CLINICS
Bitless horse-rider teams practice ground & flat work, trail-riding, and traversing obstacles. An action-packed two-day experience!.
- August 8 - 9 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
- August 22 - 23 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
- September 12 - 13 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
- September 26 - 27 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
- October 10 - 11 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
- November 7 - 8 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
NEW! An optional third day of group practice with a half-hour private session will be offered at the end of each clinic. Space is limited! Auditors: $50 Riders: $200