When deciding to sponsor this panel of experts discussing horsemanship at this year’s Equitana, we knew that the conversation certainly would be interesting. We were pleased to see it expand beyond our wildest expectations! Listening to what each expert had to say was an unparalleled opportunity to consider one’s personal place as a horseman or horsewoman, and one’s own definition of horsemanship.
In these posts, we aim to recapture some of the highlights of this engaging discussion that crossed disciplines and backgrounds and was intricately woven together through expression and experience.
The panel consisted of Karen Rohlf of Dressage Naturally, Ronny Riemer, the “German Riding Instructor” of RC Equestrian, Pat Parelli of Parelli Horsemanship, and Max Corcoran, Supergroom and USEA President.
Jen Roytz of the Retired Racehorse Project asked questions of the panel that led to some very illuminating answers. We highlighted aspects in these posts by using some keywords and the knowledge shared accordingly. Note that the order of the questions doesn’t follow the full hour; we pulled excerpts from the panel to share.
Understand behavior & body language. Be observant.
Know your horse. Seek happiness.
Rohlf: So when I think about a well-rounded horseman, I think about someone who goes across disciplines – but there’s something deeper than that. I think a good horseman needs to understand what makes a horse happy. If we are looking to be two happy individuals in a relationship, then we have to take care of our own selves, so we show up the best human that we can be for our horses.
Riemer: German Show Jumper and Olympian, Franke Sloothaak, always told me that each day you get on your horse, and it doesn’t matter which horse you ride, even if it’s the same horse, every day that you sit in the tack, the first thing you need to think about each day is: ‘What is it that I can do as a rider to support my horse in the best way possible, so that this horse can achieve their greatest potential?’
So for us as horsemen and horsewomen, it is imperative that we find out what our horses need from us today. What can I do for my horse? And never the other way around. As Karen [Rohlf] said, ‘It is a happy, healthy horse that does the job out of free will.’ We have to listen to body language and the language of our horses.