My name is Michele Richardson I’m 42 years old and still totally in love with horses. This is the story of how I came to discover Friesian horses and natural horsemanship, both of which have their place in restoring my enjoyment of riding.
I have been riding since I was 10 years old and owned my own horse since the age of 11, I’ve owned at least one horse ever since, I currently have 6. I have kept my horses in DIY livery yards, at home and in training yards in the 30+ years since.
I have Show-jumped, raced, hunted, shown, ridden side-saddle, evented and finally settled on dressage as my chosen equestrian pursuit. I have had trainers from BHSAIs to Olympic team riders. I have taken BHS exams myself and trained other people. In brief I’ve tried it all, well nearly all, and know a lot, but have forgotten more in my 32 year love affair with horses.
I was introduced to high level dressage when I saw the Spanish Riding School about 20 years ago; I had already competed at lower levels of dressage but from then on wanted to be able to do flying changes and pirouettes with lightness and harmony like the men on white horses.
This is where so many of you hearing this will empathise with me; I have learnt to ride all thoseUpdate movements that I aspired to but along the way have become disillusioned and puzzled, I started out fearless and now I’m fearful.
In my search for excellence I became lost. I depended on my trainer holding my hand every moment and found myself avoiding potentially difficult situations with my horse. I lunged my horse a lot, only rode him when the sun was shining, there were no horses in the field next to the school, the post van wasn’t due and there were no ramblers walking the foot path etc. etc.
I have visited Homeopaths, hypnotherapists and councillors to deal with my growing anxiety and help me not to be scared.
I lost my nerve because I fell off and got hurt a lot. My horse didn’t want to do what I was attempting to make him do so he expressed himself like a horse and that scared me.
My horse became non-responsive and lazy so the yard he was in upped his competition mix and kept him in the stable all day. My horse responded by acting crazily so I lunged him some more. Guess what? He got fitter so pretty soon I was lunging him for an hour before I could get on him and he was still lazy but spooky too, well actually he was not off the aids but my trainer called him lazy.
I was desperate by now and scared so I bought a new horse and gave the old one away to a younger braver person who didn’t want him for dressage.
I wanted a quieter type of horse. I heard that Friesians are quiet and easy so I bought a newly broken Friesian mare in England.
Annie is an extremely beautiful baroque Friesian mare who is an impulsive, reactive speed freak that’s built like a freight train, not quite the quiet easy horse I was hoping for. I couldn’t work out where the brakes were, so I sought advice and put the double bridle on her to hack out. On our first try she napped about turned and took me home at a flat-out trot, clambering over haylage bales and dragging me through prickly bushes on the way.
Desperately I scoured magazines in search of a new miracle stopping device but instead read an article about Natural Horsemanship which was to change my life. Although I’m still at the start of this journey my confidence has returned.
Why has no-one ever told me any of this stuff before? Surly you need to know it before you ever go near a horse. Every horse deserves to have an enlightened owner.
I am so glad I read that article because now I understand that Annie is a “right brained extrovert” horsenality. I know how to deal with her. One month later I can ride her in a halter and rope because she trusts me and this miracle is because I am becoming a horseman or maybe horsewoman!
Friesian horses are incredibly fast learners, and not spooky natured. Annie has responded brilliantly and is now a pleasure to ride. I think she was over-bitted in the past and feels claustrophobic when too much pressure is applied to her mouth so now I ride her in a rubber snaffle and if I can’t quite stop her (which is now only from walk to halt) I use a one rein technique which works better for her.
No-one sets out to be a bad horse owner but how many really strive to be the best horse owner they can be? If they did more people would study Natural Horsemanship.
This is not the easy option. It requires nerve, skill and dedication. It is however extraordinarily simple. And I can’t learn it all fast enough.
I have been using these techniques on all of my horses and incorporate them into the training of all horses on the yard; the result is a yard full of calm, happy, well- balanced horses. My new Friesian horse Onne who is more of the sports horse type Friesian is fantastic. He has not put a foot wrong so far, and I’m looking forward to getting him out to some shows in the spring.