Jen Roytz of the Retired Racehorse Project asked questions of The Lost Art of Horsemanship panel that led to some very illuminating answers. We highlighted aspects below 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.
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.
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.
At Via Nova, we meet each person where they are at. It was heartening and touching to hear the open, willing voices of these experienced horsewomen and horsemen as they talked about their continuing equestrian journeys.
In these five 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.
Rohlf: I started out as a kid in the backyard with my horse. And long story short, I became a professional. I was a successful dressage trainer, and found myself at one point really burned out. I was going to quit. And quite by coincidence, I took the winter off and just happened to be seven miles down the road from the Parellis.
I got dragged over there to their center. And it was life changing. When I started learning from the Parellis, it not only gave me a lot of the things that I didn’t think I needed, but it reminded me how I felt when I was a kid. I remember thinking, ‘I’m allowed to ride around here bareback? I’m allowed!?’
So, people would say that I went ‘Natural.’ But no, that’s not it. I re-naturalized. I was ripe for a change, and it connected me. And I then realized the things that I thought made me a good professional made me a bad person, and that didn’t feel right. It wasn’t that I wanted to quit being with horses. It was the way I was living in the professional horse world. So it gave me a new lease on life. It gave me an opportunity to rethink everything.
Then I had to go back and figure out, how does this fit into dressage? When I started, dressage and natural horsemanship were never used in the same sentence. But the FEI (Federation of Equestrian Sport) definition reads, ‘the object of dressage is the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. And as a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose, and flexible, but also confident, attentive, and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the rider.’