Monday, April 18, 2011

Bad Horsemanship? Tell me what you think!

Chicago Equestrian spent this past weekend at the Midwest Horse Fair at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

The weather was not the best, it was cold, it was rainy, it snowed, the wind whipped but there were lots of horses. Horses of every size, shape and color. Horses for every possible discipline, horse lovers of every age and every type flooded into the Alliant Energy Center.

There were some great clinicians like Mike Major and Steffen Peters. There were breed demonstrations, discipline demonstrations, clinics, a Grand Prix and shopping for every kind of horse paraphernalia. Read all about it at Chicago Equestrian.

There was also the worst demonstration of horsemanship that I have ever seen, The Liberty sessions. It actually made me sick to my stomach to watch. I think as horse owners and horse lovers we have all at one time or another been witness to a case of bad horsemanship. A frustrated rider overusing a crop, a handler being overly rough with a horse, etc.
However, these 'Liberty' sessions took bad horsemanship to a new extreme. Below is what was in The Midwest Horse Fair guide for an explanation of Liberty sessions.

One of the not to miss events during the Midwest Horse Fair includes the 18 different liberty presentations, which are spread throughout the entire weekend. A liberty appearance exhibits the beauty and elegance of each horse as they are individually turned loose in the John Deere Coliseum. They have two minutes to strut their stuff. Some horses may gallop wildly, others may buck and rear to test out their freedom, while others may go through their various gaits. All of this is performed without a saddle, bridle or halter. The horse enters the arena with up to two handlers. At the first sound of music, the halter is removed and the horse runs free in the arena demonstrating various gaits, or just trotting to the music. A whip may be used to encourage the horse, but the handler may not touch the horse during the performance. Music is selected that will enhance the performance and is chosen to suit the style and movement of each horse. Liberty means freedom and this is just what every horse loves to show off each year during the liberty presentations.
So, from the above description I was envisioning a couple different scenarios. Scenario 1: a girl and her horse playing in a field, innocence, beauty and grace. Scenario 2: A horse turned out in a safe environment to get his energy out. A few minutes of bucking, playing and running while surpvervised. Scenario 3: a horse and the handler working together at liberty, using voice and body language to convey meaning and to encourage deeper communication, trust and understanding between horse and handler.

Of the 12 examples of Liberty that I witnessed only once did one of these scenarios prove true.

The eleven other examples were of handlers scaring the crap out of their horses, of thousands of people screaming, of music so loud that some of these horses were terrified. The arena was ringed with temporary fencing that a horse could get a leg through, the footing was a sticky clay and I could imagine multitudes of soft tissue injuries, a well placed kick to one of the handlers any number of things could have gone wrong. It was just so ugly and sad and wrong.

A family affair? Great lesson for a young rider...


or this owner with a scary bag terrifying her Thoroughbred. I can only imagine what would happen if a bag happens to blow by when they are in the show ring...



video
'BAD' Liberty

I must give credit where credit is due. There was one owner who actually showed at Liberty work with her horse. She did a very good job of it and put all the others to shame.

video
'Good' Liberty


I would really love to hear what everyone else thinks of this display! Am I being overly critical? or do you agree on this awful display? Please leave your comments... I want to know! You can leave an anonymous comment or add your name.

5 comments:

  1. Banners, loud music, screaming fans... Lovely recipe for disaster.

    Then again, people love a wild show...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Somewhere in between might be real "liberty." The girl working her horse has him under control and it's certainly fun, but it's not the horse "at liberty," exactly.

    Nor is chasing a horse around, especially when it appears most of them are trying to run for the gate.

    At least two of my guys will actually lunge around me, at liberty..and occasionally veer off course to do something silly on their own. I do not ask for this when they do it, they simply do it by choice. I'd be just as happy to see them trot off and then pick a nice place to roll.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't like free lunging cause it just looks silly to me, but my old mare will lunge off the line and stay in a circle, I guess after doing it for so many years she has the idea. I would think if they were getting some demonstrations in, they would only ask for good ones. Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey, I was the one "good liberty" run at the 2011 Midwest Horse Fair. You are right, the rest of the "liberty" displays are very hard to watch. Ever since I started going to the midwest horse fair and saw the "liberty" exhibitions, I have felt that someone must be able to do a better job. That was just my first attempt. Yes, to some extent, Jackson was "under control", but most of the time when we practice liberty at home, it is in huge pastures and often with the gate wide open.

    And I encourage and reward and offered behavior that is expressive (i.e. rearing, bucking, playing around).

    I hope we see the "liberty" stuff begin to change now!

    Ivy

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey, I was the one "good liberty" run at the 2011 Midwest Horse Fair. You are right, the rest of the "liberty" displays are very hard to watch. Ever since I started going to the midwest horse fair and saw the "liberty" exhibitions, I have felt that someone must be able to do a better job. That was just my first attempt. Yes, to some extent, Jackson was "under control", but most of the time when we practice liberty at home, it is in huge pastures and often with the gate wide open.

    And I encourage and reward and offered behavior that is expressive (i.e. rearing, bucking, playing around).

    I hope we see the "liberty" stuff begin to change now!

    Ivy

    ReplyDelete

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