Common sense is one of those things that we all feel we have been blessed with. It is endlessly referred to in horsemanship, but whenever I hear this term I am immediately alerted to its lack of clarity. One person's common sense is very different from another's...
So what does common sense mean? I guess it means the things that we take as " a given." Things like checking both directions for traffic before pulling out, yet accidents occur every day. Or don’t ride your green 3 year old down a busy road at dusk. As you can see, it is far more effective to define our behaviors rather than rely on the vague value of common sense.
When you are planning your time with your horse, always be aware of what you need to be safe. For example, I often experience:
- My horse leading politely at my side. This tells me he will follow my intention without me having to put an undue amount of work into keeping him there.
- My horse standing still to be tacked-up, mounted and dismounted. This tells me he understands how to stand still even while I have to move about.
- My horse waiting for me to ask him to move before we start our ride. This tells me my horse understands his job to stand still until I ask him to move.
- My horse moving forward for me at the pace I ask for. This tells me my horse understands his responsibility to move when I ask him to, at the pace I ask for.
- My horse stopping willingly and responsively. This tells me my horse will respond to my aids and stand still on request.
- My horse staying connected with me during a ride. This tells me my horse does not drift off into a world of his own during our rides.
- My horse moving with my aid willingly and responsively. this tells me my horse aware and conscious of the communication that I offer him.
Rather than relying on the vague term of common sense, I chose to define the behaviors that I want my horse to offer me. In this way I can more accurately judge which situation is safe for me and him to go into with a successful outcome. This is a powerful safety tool, and probably as important as a riding hat or riding boots. Thinking about your own list and fixing up the bits that aren't working for you, could save your or your horses life!
Stay safe riding and thanks for reading.