I came across this new phrase a couple of days ago and it triggered my brain cells … “Green Horsemanship”, what is it supposed to stand for? What would it actually look like in our daily routines? Is it a valid expression?
I went to my bookshelf and I found one of the old masters looking down at me from the top-shelf- of course. There I was sure to find an answer on the very basic question, which to me seems to be essential before getting to the “green part”: The Definition of Horsemanship.
Once I managed to get a hold of Mr. Guérinières Ecole Du Cavalerie, this is what I found:
“All sciences and arts have principles and rules, by means of which one makes discoveries leading to their perfection. However practice without true principles is nothing other than routine, the fruit of which is a strained and unsure execution, a false diamond which dazzles semi-connoisseurs often more impressed by the accomplishments of the horse than by the merit of the horseman.” (François Robichon de la Guérinière, School of Horsemanship)
Mr.De la Guérinière was the leading master of the eighteenth century and probably the father of modern equitation as we know it today. He is said to be the inventor of the shoulder-in which he called the "alpha and omega of all exercises, he is also credited for the invention of the flying-change and the counter-canter. In his famous book "Ecole de Cavalerie," meaning School of Horsemanship, published in 1733, he stresses using few aids and punishments while riding. He also comments greatly on the use of the shoulder-in at all gaits, including the gallop. The very basis however is the correct seat of the rider in order to have a soft, light hand. Most of his exercises were to increase the horse's suppleness and balance, and he had a progressive schooling system to reach an overall goal: a light, obedient, calm horse that was a pleasure to ride.
Throughout his book Mr. De la Guérinière places great emphasis on detailed knowledge of the different nature of horses, interior and exterior as well as care and training-cycles. Based on the writings of Xenophon in 350BC (On Horsemanship) his goal was to provide a reference detailing the principles of classical dressage including training the horse in a manner that is non-abusive.
Imagining the 1700’s his book must have caused quiet some discussions and probably has been looked at as being revolutionary.
Our definition of horsemanship in today’s world is based on the principles laid down in his book. But one thing came across and contributed to the loss of “magic” in equestrianism: Industrialization!
Horsemanship became secondary to success! Horses were no longer looked at as being the backbone of our civilization, but rather became an expensive hobby of high society or better yet an eventually profitable investment. Thanks to local farmers up to 1950 the knowledge of horsemanship has been preserved within the daily routines of farming however with modern machinery and the constant thrives for higher yields this last resort of knowledge slowly but surely vanished.
So what happened? If we are all so well equipped with top of the art saddlery, armed with the latest superhorse-feeds and trained by the best of the best, why won’t we be able to reach our max in equestrianism? The simple answer is horsemanship! We’ve lost connection to our partner due to time constraints – which is typical for “hobbies” - and due to simple ignorance! So horsemanship is supposed to help us finding this connection again, understanding the nature of horses and act accordingly when interacting with them.
So where does the “green part” fit in? Well, I have done a lot of research on this issue, but I am truly not able to find a definition anywhere. It has simply not been discussed.
Maybe the catch is this: Horsemanship strictly deals with the interaction of rider and horse from a holistic point of view. The goal is to reach the optimum of performance while respecting the nature of the horse and by refraining from abuse - always keeping health and welfare of the horse in mind!
To become “green “in this respect could only be a partial solution to the current issue of sustainability in equestrianism. We could switch to organic feeds, use alternative medicine, buy non-toxic saddlery and things like that, but we still would not redefine horsemanship in the sense of becoming green horsemanship. We simply would “turn back time” and tend to our horses the way the old stable masters did. So maybe this should be called “genuine horsemanship” instead.
If we are planning to coin a new phrase and really make a difference for future generations, we will need to change a lot of things in equestrianism rather than reinventing horsemanship. For one we all will have to become “genuine horsemen- and –women”- preserving our cultural heritage and educating ourselves on the way that goes without question. Secondly we will all have to become “green equestrians” meaning to thrive for sustainability in our daily equestrian routines and consumer habits.
The answer for a natural competitive advantage : “Green Equestrianism” combined with “Genuine Horsemanship”?
I am looking forward to your input