Dublin show at the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge is the centrepiece and driving force for many in the Irish Equestrian community. It is so dominant in our culture that people just talk about it as ‘the horse show’, despite the fact that there are approximately another 2,000 annual horse shows
in this extraordinary horse loving country.yes""> The horse show is five life enhancing days of equestrian celebration. It caters for every type of horse and pony, with the traditional show hunter championship still generating special interest despite the competition from the high level show jumping on display in two arenas from 8 o’clock in the morning till 7 o’clock at night.
It is five days of bowler hatted stewards, huge rosettes, ladies in silk and not a little retail therapy; five days of glamorous international riders, visits from our President, Mary McAleese, and huge cheers for the winners of each and every class. It is without doubt one of the really great horse shows of the world.
IS THIS WHAT WE NEED?
This year there is a special visitor doing daily demonstrations in one of the sand arenas in Simmonscourt …. none other than Monty Roberts, the young horse guru. I will probably upset some people because I do not think we need a visit from Monty at this time. Yes he has generated publicity for the show and yes without doubt he makes many more people think about how they
communicate with their horses, but it ignores one central fact…it is not fundamentally difficult to get on a horse’s back. What is difficult, or what requires real expertise is to put a horse between the aids, using their backs and going in such a way that they are prepared to carry a rider.
Monty’s often used mission statement is that he wants “to take the violence out of horse training.” An admirable statement that the vast majority of us can buy into without difficulty. However in the process he is disingenuous by suggesting that most horses are treated brutally and have their spirits broken by ignorant handlers. This is as untrue as the clever linking of his name to the well known film ‘The Horse Whisperer.’ The horse whisperer was based on the work of Buck Brannaman, who was also the lead equine consultant for the film, and still teaches and rides brilliantly in the USA.
This has been confirmed many times by the author of the horse whisperer, Nicholas Evans, but no one has heard it from Monty’s lips. Evans himself said, "Others have falsely claimed to be the inspiration for Tom Booker in The Horse Whisperer. The one who truly inspired me was Buck Brannaman. His skill, understanding and his gentle, loving heart have parted the clouds for countless troubled creatures. Buck is the Zen master of the horse world."
PREPARED TO CARRY THE RIDER
There is little need to get on a horse’s back in record time….and there is little need for Monty Robert’s quick mount trick. There is however a great need to prepare a horses for being ridden so that they can cope with the weight of the rider without dropping and locking their back and becoming an inefficient athlete. None of my young horses are ridden away until they first go in a connected and quality way on the lunge. Yes the rider should be introduced earlier, sometimes much earlier, but riding a young horse that is not connected back to front does little except
establish bad habits and a poor way of going. Unfortunately the work of Monty Robert encourages the riding of young horses at too early a stage, when they have neither the physical preparation nor way of going to cope easily. It is therefore often counterproductive and harmful to their future development.
THE REAL NEED
So where is the priority need for education? Unfortunately too many Irish horses are still harmed by early days with riders who do not have the expertise to ride a horse between the aids with a ‘classical’ progression and rely instead on the quick fix of gadgets to pull the heads in unnaturally. These people urgently need education on lungeing and riding techniques that will give more horses the chance of an easier and more effective way of going when carrying a rider.
Monty Robert's method is not unique. My own Father Dick Micklem used a very similar method, learnt from the Argentine polo players in the late 1940’s. However he only used it on the horses that had learnt to buck people off having been badly handled by others. As he said himself “for the majority of horses getting on their backs is easy. What you need to spend the time on is giving them a ‘mouth’ and getting them to ride well.” So Monty Roberts is rather like the King in his magic suit of clothes. One day we shall realise he is naked!