Time to Change

Time to change – by Meredith Ransley

“The danger from horse riding is compounded by the interaction of two species, human and horse, which may result in unpredictable events.”
Dr Raymond A. Cripps, AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit

“We need to be a Horseman  not  Human when it comes to interacting with horses.”
– Shane Ransley, Founder of Quantum Savvy Horsemanship

Big Geoff barrel jumpDo you, as a horse lover, personally know of someone who has been killed or seriously hurt by a horse?  With the statistics alarmingly and unforgivably high, chances are that you do.  Each year in Australia alone, 20 people on average are killed in horse related activities*.  That is, riding or handling horses in some way.  And while the stats are often hard to track down, they state that more than 3000 people each year in our country alone are seriously hurt by a horse*.  Just this week a lady in South Australia fell off her horse and broke her neck, and another in Victoria came off her horse and fractured her skull.  Plus there have been at least two deaths this summer already, and this is just incidents that I’ve heard of without even looking.

The trouble is that statistics are just that.  Numbers, that give a benchmark of occurrences and their frequency.  Something to measure.  They aren’t real to most of us who would just write them off as ‘acceptable’ in this ‘risky’ sport we all partake in, that is horse riding.  It’s annoying and frustrating that those researching the statistics of horse related accidents say, in nearly every paper I’ve read, that the number of injuries and deaths is “comparatively low as a percentage of people actually involved in the dangerous sport of horse riding”.   In other words, lots of people ride horses so what is a couple of thousands injuries and only twenty or so deaths a year?  I’ll tell you what it is.   It’s not low enough for the families of those who died.  It means in the 20+ years I’ve been teaching horsemanship, more than 400 people in Australia have died.  In the UK, the numbers are only slightly lower than in Australia, but some stats claim that in the USA the figure is over 200 a year!

If we just look at things purely as statistics, as percentages if you will, the odds of being killed in a plane crash or by a shark are only 1 in many millions.  But we are all horrified by these facts.  And yet when someone is killed by a horse we say “how terrible” then shrug it off as acceptable in such a risky pursuit.  We’ve conditioned ourselves to the point that it’s no longer shocking.  It’s normal even.

“The way we’ve learned to live with the shock of loss of life, is by telling ourselves it’s a dangerous sport, therefore it’s acceptable.”  Shane Ransley

But it isn’t acceptable.  These aren’t just numbers.  They are real people….Mums of small children, grandmothers, fathers, daughters of distraught mothers who have to live the rest of their lives overwhelmed with questions why and with no answers.

One such Mum, whose 18 year old daughter was killed a number of years ago while attending a horse related course with an accredited establishment, has been doggedly pursuing answers and demanding change ever since.  She has been relentless in chasing down why this happened.  How her beautiful girl could leave home happily one morning, to attend a course she was looking forward to and not ever come home again.  Ever.

Frustratingly, to many people (and I of course include most horse riders in this) this rate of injury and death is acceptable.  Even normal and to be expected.  Recently an acquaintance’s young daughter came off her horse and hurt herself and everyone’s response was, “Never mind, get back on.  These things happen.  When you ride horses you can expect to get hurt from time to time.”  But it isn’t acceptable.  Not to me, not to the families of the people killed and injured and nor should it be to any of you who own or are around horses.

I have been very fortunate to have been consulted by the Mum of the 18 year old, as she pursues her goal of having an industry standard code of practise put in place for all establishments who teach horse related activities.  I have been asked to participate as one of many consultants, to put forward my opinion and to provide input and feedback to the ongoing cause.  To date there has been quite some success with this pursuit, and it does look like some kind of industry code will commence at some point.  However, I am very afraid that it will have little or no effect on the statistics as they are.  I fear that all we will end up with are more useless rules made by people who really have no idea about horses and safety and saving people’s lives.  Why do I fear this?  Why won’t it have an effect?

Most of the professionals consulted agreed that horses and horse riding are dangerous.  They also didn’t want any kind of industry standard being put into place and were happy to do their own risk assessment in their own businesses.  And here in lies the first issue.  Belief number 1; That horses are dangerous.  Horses are not dangerous.  Horse riding is not dangerous.  We have this belief that it is, so when someone falls and gets hurt, we accept it as ‘normal’.  Which is just wrong.  Horse riding should not be dangerous.  Beginner riders on green horses however is unbelievably dangerous and terrifying to watch.  What we need, and in Australia we are terrible for this, is to not let green, beginner riders get on horse’s that are not fully educated.  And I don’t mean educated in the conventional sense of the term, I mean a proper education.  Horse’s that are mentally, emotionally and spiritually educated to take care of a beginner rider.  Here in Australia, we just jump on anything and hope it will be okay.  To protect ourselves we wear helmets, body armour, and put all kinds of gadgets on the horse and then go. We may as well cross our fingers as well for all the good it does us.  And that brings us to Belief number two:  That it’s okay to ride dangerous horses as long as we wear a helmet and use the right gear on the horse.

It’s not okay.  And this is something I see all the time and that both frightens and frustrates me at the same time.  This is a really important point and when I raise it, it’ll seem obvious.  Riding horses shouldn’t buck, bolt, rear or shy. If a horse does any of these things, or has a tendency to do any of these things, it shouldn’t be ridden.  Don’t get on it.  Plain and simple.  A Riding Horse should be emotionally calm, sensible, quiet and using it’s left brain.  It should be thinking. I see so many people on or around right brained, scared horses it amazes me….actually it astounds me that more people aren’t hurt by them.  And when I say a quiet horse, I don’t mean one that is dull, or has no play, or is boring.  I just mean one that is educated, can think it’s way through what would normally be an emotional trigger for a horse and stay calm.  And this, believe me is really easy to achieve with a horse.

To most people, and this may be many people reading this missive, this may seem like a huge and complicated thing to do.  Indeed it must do because even after so many years of having this kind of knowledge and help available, the majority of horse owners and riders still just don’t get it.  And that is because of Belief No 3: We think in order to work with horses, we need to control the right brain instead of educating the left brain.  Think about that one a bit because it is really important.

Traditionally, everything we do involves controlling the horse and his instincts (his right brain).  We want to use bigger bits, more tie downs, nose bands, side reins and on and on.  And just in case that doesn’t work, we need to wear helmets and body protection.  Everything we do, every decision we make is based on the need or the belief that we need to control the right brain.  And that is complicated and hard and something we still haven’t been successful with because of one thing.  It can’t be done.  You are never going to control the right brain of anything let alone a flight response prey animal like a horse.  At best all you will do is contain them, but certainly not control.  I bet you have all experienced, or else seen someone who has, a horse that has been right brained and emotional and felt the need to flee or be free.  It is terrifying.  The moment that containment is no longer enough and they really try to break free.  They would rather risk hurting themselves…..or worse, in an effort to be free.  And if you are around them or on board in that instant, you soon become aware of just how vulnerable and insignificant you are in that moment.

In all honesty, if I felt that I had to put a helmet on, or wear body armour, then I would not get on the horse.  And I mean a riding horse.  I am not saying that people should not wear helmets.  Far from it.  But I do think we should consider more fully the times they are actually needed and make sure our horses are better prepared before we get on.  This is the problem; trying to ride horses that shouldn’t be ridden.  The problem isn’t that horses are dangerous.  I want to be really clear on this because I know there are some people who may get confused by what I am saying or try to twist my meaning.  A ‘Riding Horse’ should not bolt, rear, buck or shy.  If a horse does any of these things, it needs more help, more education by a true horseman to overcome it fears.  Or else the person causing the horse to do these things should step away from the horse!  A beginner rider who is still learning about balance and developing their seat, should certainly wear a helmet and should only ride a fully educated horse.  Period!

Any horse of course can put a foot wrong at times, so we need to be prepared for that.  But even a beginner rider can stay on a horse that stumbles a little at walk.  Even trot.  Usually they end up in a fit of the giggles when it happens.  If a horse stumbles at canter or gallop it can be difficult to stay on but this shouldn’t be beginner riders in an arena.  For people doing eventing, racing, jumping, colt starting or horse training and so on, it only makes sense to wear a helmet.  The risks in this case are higher from a practical view point.

What about trail riding or hacking?  Trail riding is one of the riskiest and most dangerous sports to under-take and one of the most commonly pursued by horse lovers.  As a horseman it is very easy to understand why it is risky.  Horses are flight response prey animals.  Their default system tells them to run (in a straight line) if they get scared. Out on the trail there are any number of things to trigger a horse’s flight response so it is really easy for a horse to trigger right-brain and flee.  It is usually not beginner riders who get hurt on trails, but people who lack horsemanship on emotionally uneducated horses, trying to ride in straight lines! (Horses being prey animals are very vulnerable in open spaces and presented with straight lines will often trigger a right-brain flight response.)

Educating the left brain, to teach the horse to think through moments that may trigger survival behaviour, is actually really easy to do.  But it has nothing to do with controlling the right brain, or training the horse, or wearing him out, or beating it out of him.  It is just a matter of learning to become a horseman.  And I don’t mean someone who just calls themselves that.  Someone who thinks that being able to stay on a horse makes you a horseman, or working with horses, or having been around them forever and a day.  I mean a real horseman.  Someone who understands horses, what makes them tick and can communicate with them in a very real and repeatable way and who horses trust and respect.

One of the points of interest that was brought up in regard to the new standard code of practise, was that people who teach horse activities should have riding accreditations and teaching accreditations.  All very well but what about horsemanship accreditations?  Most people who fall from horses and get seriously hurt are not beginner riders.  Probably the most at risk are those who have been riding for some time, even years and who think they are good riders.  And maybe they have even have had lots of riding lessons.  But what they still lack is horsemanship skill.  Having a good seat will not necessarily save you on a bucking or bolting horse.  Having the horsemanship to know when to step off, or better, not get on at all, will save you every time.

The other day a man was killed when he walked up behind his horse and patted it on the rump.  It responded by kicking him in the throat and killing him.  A tragic accident many said.  A freak thing to happen.  I am sorry but it was not.  It was a head shot….a kill shot.  Horses know exactly where their feet are going.  They are very good at warning shots.  Just watch them with each other for a while and you’ll see it.  They know just how hard to kick or bite to let each other know and get their message across, without inflicting damage.  I am very, very sorry for this man and his family.  It was a truly terrible thing to happen.  But you should be able to walk up behind your own horse and give it a pat without risk of injury.  I know some of you won’t agree and you’ll probably even be quite cross with me in regard to this, but that is because you still think horses are dangerous.  A horse shouldn’t be so wound up and so scared that it feels the need to defend itself to this degree.  And if it is, we should have the horsemanship to be able to tell and to steer clear.

There are examples of lack of horsemanship everywhere.  Recently a British elite equestrian was under attack for her let’s say ‘forceful’ dealings with a horse at a demonstration.  She had the chance to work with a famous race horse and try to turn it into a dressage horse.  I don’t know the time frame she was given but the outcome was not very successful.  She had to resort to a lot of force and strength to get it to do anything and people were upset by it.   But let’s look at this scenario because it is one we see all the time in Australia.  A race horse is bred and trained to run as fast as it can in a straight line.  It is what we call a long horse.  Flat out, fast, straight, length of stride.  A dressage horse is bred and trained for elevation of stride.  To collect, round up, engage and power up in an elevated or lateral frame of movement.  A good race horse then, should not be a good dressage horse and vice versa.  It was ridiculous to try to turn one into the other.  A horseman should know this without thinking.  Of course it can be done, with enough time and education you may be able to take all the forward out and redirect it to up but it’d be like trying to turn a Ferrari into a 4WD.  Even if it can be done, what is the point?

The trouble is that we don’t even understand which end of the horse is the bit that needs to be communicated with.  Because we believe that we have to control the right-brain, we try to put things on the horse’s head to achieve this control.  A horseman knows that it has nothing to do with the head physically.  You can take control of the head but that doesn’t mean you’ll have control of the rest of the horse.  We’ve all seen horses bucking or bolting with someone hanging on to the reins (and therefore their heads) for dear life and it making no difference whatsoever.  Control of the horse comes from the back end, from the hind feet if you really need control.  From being able to communicate with the hind quarter and the horse having the trust and confidence in you to offer disengagement of it.  Communication with the horse when riding, comes through your seat and the lateral softness of the horse.  Even a horse that is collected and truly engaged can only be so if his back and ribs are soft laterally and his hind coming underneath him.  Getting a hold of his head will only make him feel more contained and claustrophobic.  If you cause him enough pain he may do your bidding but how will he feel about that?  Do you think you’d really be getting the best from your partner if you are hurting him?  Most horses who have assumed the ‘correct’ head set, are also hollow in the back or over flexed at the poll, to try to give themselves some relief.  Even people who think they are being kind by riding in bitless bridles still don’t get it.  It is not about the head.   And there are plenty of bitless bridles around that still work by causing pain or depriving the horse of air.  Cruel.

True self carriage comes from soft lateral ribs and back, calm emotions and an engaged hind quarter.  You shouldn’t need anything on their heads at all for that.

While it is wonderful that at last there seems to be some, who are at least listening to the need for things to change within the horse industry, the new code of practise for beginner riders won’t save lives.  I doubt it will make any difference to our statistics at all.  It is time to change.  Time to change our antiquated beliefs about horses and to stop thinking that horsemanship is just owing a horse.  All riders, beginners and experienced riders alike, are at risk until we understand that it is Horsemanship that needs to be encouraged and mandated.  A true understanding of the way horses think and respond and a knowledge of true communication.
* Related statistics taken from;
J R Silver, High Street, Wendover, Bucks HP22 6EA, UK
*Flinders University Study
Australian Institute for Health and welfare
National Injury Surveillance Unit – Raymond A Cripps

Meredith Ransley
CEO & Co-founder
Quantum Savvy Horsemanship
Meredith’s Blog

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Connection & Harmony

Ever wondered how building a true connection through groundwork can improve every aspect of your relationship with your horse? Check out Meredith’s video for a glimpse of what can be achieved.


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The Sea of over-information

dustyHow do you tell the difference between sh#@ and shoe polish?  Between something of worth and real value or something superficial and of little real use.  Between something of substance and experience vs something with no real depth, no proof or past evidence that can stand the test of time?

Right now I sit with a group of incredible people.  A group of dedicated, knowledgeable, experienced horsemen.  People who spend much of their time, effort and energy trying to further not only their skills with horses but also finding ways to better help the horses and humans under their influence and care.

In short, Professional Horsemen.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had people come to me seeking help after wasting many hours, a lot of money and risking injury by taking ‘advice’ and ‘training’ from the myriad so called ‘horsemanship professionals’ who are currently flooding the globe with their questionable skills.  Through the advent of social media, it has become incredibly easy to snap a glossy picture or two of you and your horse, write a few wise words and promote yourself from the ranks of amateur to supposed professional.

And how is the unsuspecting horse lover, seeking help with their horse, supposed to be able to wade through the ocean of over-information to determine the genuine article from the weekend warrior.

I’m very proud to say that every member of the Quantum Savvy Team is a professional horseman.  Someone who is genuinely committed to helping others.  Between us we have hundreds of thousands of hours of working with all types of horses (and humans!) across the world to create a knowledge bank that is staggering. And  each  member of the team wants just one thing….to share their knowledge and skill with as many horse owners and horse lovers as possible.

My advice to anyone seeing help with their horse is to do your research, thoroughly.  And that means, look beyond the glossy photos and the flashy ads.  Get to know the person your dealing with.  Ask them about their experience and what they’ve achieved and not just what they can do with their horse but what they’ve been able to have their students achieve.

If they can help others to achieve their dreams and goals, there is a good chance they can help you to achieve yours also.  You and your horse deserve nothing less.

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Forget a code of practice – make Horsemanship mandatory!

Diesel_GonndiwindiWhat an incredible time we have had during our ‘You Can Do It Too!’ Tour, and a very timely one also. While we have been busting a butt to try to change the way people work with and relate to horses, to try to promote the vital need for a dramatic increase in horsemanship skill and the long past due call for people to learn how horses truly think and behave, the NSW govt has been amidst a push to administer an industry code of practice for equine related activities. I have at this stage had only a cursory glance at the proposed code so I will have much more to say on this later and will call on all of your to do the same, however I have been involved with this proposal in one way or another for some years now. While the motives of those involved are certainly commendable, I very much fear the new code will only give us more rules to follow that will make little or no change to the very real issues that are at hand….and these are the mainstream and accepted mistreatment and misunderstanding of horses and the injury and death of far too many of our precious horse lovers. The code deals mainly with beginner riders, but those most affected are ‘experienced’ horse owners / riders.
Serious changes do need to be made, hence our just completed 2 month tour of Qld, where we provided FREE help, advice and support to any and all who were interested. But introducing this new code of practice will be like putting seat-belts in cars that have no brakes or steering. They are trying to save lives with more rules when they should be focusing on horsemanship. Quite frankly it worries me a lot and after many years of trying to get this point across and being asked to be involved with formatting this code, I feel like I have been screaming into the wind. And no one is hearing me.
More rules, more pointless standards,more helmets, more protective gear, more, more, more is NOT going to save the lives people are hoping it will. And it is not going to stop an issue that almost no one seems to even care about, and that is people causing pain, stress and anxiety in their horses. People are being hurt and killed because of their lack of horsemanship skill and by riding and handling horses that they shouldn’t be. Period. It is WAY past time to change folks. Wake up to yourselves horse owners. Horses are not dangerous, unpredictable or life threatening if you know how to properly relate with them and understand their behavior. They are large animals so of course their is always some risk however all risk can be HUGELY reduced by increasing horsemanship skill. All level of riders are at risk, not just beginners….all level or riders need to get with it, and acknowledge that when it comes to understanding horses truly…..they don’t!!!!
It is really, really simple; don’t get on a horse that is not calm…..ever. Understand that a safe and true partnership begins on the ground. All riders and horse owners need to stop wasting their money on gadgets, gear and feed additives and instead, invest their time in developing their partnership with their horse and establishing TRUE horsemanship. Forget the rules and the gadgets. Our code of practice should be to make horsemanship mandatory.
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Had any trouble with your horse lately?

12909414_620920128065439_3680557784536923712_oI had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine recently, about her horse who had been unwell and who she’d had the vet out to, to see what was wrong with her.  My friend had found it really hard to build her mare’s fitness over a period of months and began to suspect that there was something physically wrong with her.

She retold the conversation she’d had with the vet……….

“Have you had any trouble with her lately?  Has she been playing up?”

“What kind of trouble do you mean?”

“You know, rearing, bucking, refusing to go forward, head tossing.  That kind of thing.  That’s pretty standard for horses with this condition.”

“No!…nothing of that kind.  If she’s struggling, I back off a bit and let her rest……catch her breath.”

“Wow…that’s amazing!  It’s great that you really listen to your horse.”

Further tests by the vet showed that the mare had some nasal scarring which was actually stopping her from being able to breath properly, so she was simply not getting enough air, which made her seem very unfit. My friend, who has a fair and reasonable amount of care and empathy for her horse, was simply taking note of how her horse felt and acted accordingly when she struggled to go forward for any great length of time.  She’d back off, let the mare rest and catch her breath, before getting back to work.

But the vet’s questions and amazement at this response to the horse’s feedback was frankly incredible.  While the vet totally agreed with my friend about how to manage the horse’s lack of air, her shock at the fact that my friend had listened to her horse and not pushed her to keep working, was amazing.  She totally expected to hear that the horse had developed dome pretty serious behavioral problems over this issue and was surprised to hear how my friend had handled it.

Which begged the question from both of us….what the heck are people doing in other cases of this kind?  Blaming their horse for being lazy?  Punishing them for finding the work hard?  Thinking their horses were bad, naughty, suddenly possessed if their behaviour made a change?

We’re so quick to tell our horses when they’re wrong, but conversely slow to realise that if we’d just take enough interest in the feedback they give us, we’d have far less problems with them and much happier horses.  We’re pretty quick to take the credit when our horses do well, but should they do wrong we’re even quicker to punish them and let them know.  We’re oblivious to our horses feelings and thoughts to the point of cruelty.

How far off the track are those horse owners who still think that horses are bad and dangerous and just out to get us?  When will we realise that if we just take the time to be aware of and listen to their feedback, that life instantly gets better for both rider AND horse.  Horses are always trying to tell us something, but most times their efforts land on deaf ears.

My friend did nothing more than to care about her horse and how she felt, but sadly it seems she may be in the minority!

  • Meredith Ransley April 2016


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No more runaways.

Rhiannon and Mum You Can Do It Too!My kids love their ponies. I love my kids.  So, I need to be able to trust the ponies to keep my children safe.  But as good as the ponies are, and even after all the time we’ve spent on educating them to be calm, quiet, confident and tolerant, they are still living creatures with thoughts and ideas of their own.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be taking part in a day of horsemanship demonstrations in South-East Qld, and one of the demos I did involved little people (3 of which were mine) and their small ponies.  Our subject was ‘Safe Ponies, Happy Kids’.  The point of this demo was to highlight to parents and guardians, the importance of a proper education of small ponies, many of whom really get no such thing and as such, suffer a less than favorable reputation.  How many people have rolled their eyes and said ‘typical pony’ after said pony has done something they perceived as ‘naughty’.

In truth of course, the pony is no such thing.  It is simply giving the owner /handler a bit of feedback.  Unfortunately, because they are so small, much of the feed back they give is missed, dismissed, shrugged off or worse, laughed off!  So the behavior which in a large horse may be taken more seriously, goes unheeded and eventually gets worse.  The result being that our precious little person gets run off with, bucked off and knocked over.

Little ponies need as much education as big horses.  In fact they need more, because the small person who is riding them, often doesn’t have the skill, balance, timing or experience of a more grown up person.  So they trust the pony and us to do the right thing by them and prepare the pony properly.

I made a few points during my demo, two of which seemed to really resonate strongly with may people.  One was, that we need to help our little people become and stay confident with their ponies.  Confidence, as most grown up riders know, is very easy to lose and in many cases, extremely hard to get back again.  Over-facing small children with a pony that is too big, that has little education, has too much spirit and not enough tolerance, can destroy a horse-loving child’s confidence, sometimes forever.  And as a horse lover, we all know how sad that is!  To love something with such passion and yet be terrified of it at the same time.  So providing a pony with a truly solid education that is suitable for the level of the child rider is paramount.

The other point I made that seemed to really strike home for people, was to teach small children to get off their pony, quickly, if the pony is moving off or doing something they don’t want or like.  How often have we seen a small child on a runaway pony?  Even the thought is terrifying.  And yet, for some bizarre reason, if a horse plays up, we’re taught in many circumstances, to stay on!  It seems to be expected.  The thought doesn’t seem to cross our minds to just get off.

Not only is it okay to step down, it’s the smart thing to do.  Live to ride another day.  Don’t try to stay up there and ride it out….especially in the case of small children.

Humans of any age, will go into the fetal position when they get scared.  Which on a horse translates to sitting forward and gripping on.  So if a pony starts to move off, or gets a bit scared or just wants some different grass, and the child follows their instincts and grips a bit tighter, this is enough to propel the pony forward even faster which of course triggers more grip and the cycle continues until you end up with a child on a runaway pony.  We need to learn to overcome our human instinct.

The simplest way to do this is to teach little children from a very early age, how to slide off.  If they’re sitting on their pony and the pony moves off, just get off.  Long before a child develops a great seat, or has the timing or coordination to stop or turn a horse, they can very easily learn to just slide down.  Then, run back to where they were to begin with and hop back on.  Ponies learn really quickly that moving off will get them no where.  And the child loses any fear of being run off with and actually gains a lot of confidence from knowing what to do and they can actually do something about it if it happens.

And yes, these are little children.  Children from two or three up to six or seven years old. Supervised of course.  Big enough to be on a pony but not so big as to be able to pull on or manhandle a horse into doing what they want!  Thank goodness.  And hopefully they’ll never learn this method of riding horses.

They’ll never learn to be cruel and pull on the ponies mouth or use force or coercion to get a pony or horse to do their bidding.  But they will learn how to be safe, how to communicate clearly and fairly with their equine and if all else fails, how to get off and take a fresh start.  And doing just that, is okay!

Meredith Ransley

April 2016

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Will that be one shot or two?



Once upon a time, the world was HUGE.  Getting from one place to another took ages and here in Oz, it also took several gerry cans off petrol and several spare tyres.   Long distance phone-calls were exciting, rare events that had us dashing to the phone to talk to a distant friend or loved one and we marveled at how well we could hear them…..even though they really did sound like they were on the other side of the world.  Snail-mail was also exciting as it brought letters and news and newspaper clippings, and this wonder-of-the-modern-age was something we benefited from 5 days a week!  We had 5 whole TV stations to tune into, that brought us much edited and censored news and info and heaven for bid we somehow managed to survive without mobile phones or computers!  And we had to actually go to the bank and the shops!  Good grief!

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and living in our new world of ease, access and availability.  It means I can live and work where I choose because I love it here, but still get what I need from anywhere in the world.  How cool is that!

Trouble is though, that now, things are so easy to get, so available and we have so many options, it can be incredibly confusing trying to decide what, when and who.  And I don’t just mean “shall I have the double espresso or the latte” kind of decisions either.

Take horsemanship for example.  It seems every man, woman and their dog have something to share and show these days.  The magic answer, the perfect video, the one and only training tool or tips you can’t possibly do without.  And this is great.  It means that all day, every day, there is someone out there somewhere who has help, advice, information or products to help just about any horse owner with just about any horse.  And I wish good luck to each horse-lover in trying to find the one that best suits them without wasting a lot of time and money.

However!….this is not what I want to talk about today.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot though.  And even more so recently.  Of course, I reckon Quantum Savvy is the best pathway to success with horses that there is…..I sure know it works!  But there is so much more to sift through and choose from.  Even if you’re not actively looking, one way or another some horse trainer, horseman or coach, is going to cross your path.  So my thoughts have been, how on earth do people choose?  To borrow a phrase, how do horse owners choose sh#t from shinola (shoe polish). We’re inundated with it until it is overwhelming and we’re left drowning in a sea of methods, terminology, opinions and advice.  So what do we do?

Like I said, it has made me think a lot about this conundrum.  And one thing it really made me do, was take a good look at what I do, and why.  The message I am trying so hard to get across and the legacy I’d like to leave.  I feel I really have something important and valid to say and to share, but how do others know?  What am I really trying to achieve with my life’s work; what is it that I feel so desperately in need of getting across to people?

Now, this much I do know, for I have been trying to spread my message for more than 20 years.  I’ve traveled Oz and OS many times, to share my thoughts, discoveries and ideas with horse owners in many countries.  And I figure I’ll keep doing it as long as there is breath in my body.  And that is, that until we learn to keep it simple, until we put our ego aside and step back and really listen to our horses, until we stop trying to make things hard for them and blaming them when things don’t go right and instead take responsibility for everything our horses do, true horsemanship will escape us.

To this day, there are very few people at any level and I include the world’s ‘top’ equestrians and trainers in this, who really ‘get’ horses.  Who understand the fundamental concept that we have to stop trying to get our horses to submit to our will, stop trying to control, coerce and manipulate them into doing what we want them to do and expecting them to tune in to us.  Until we do this we will never learn to tune in to them.  To tap into their frequency and really hear them and what they have to say.

A good horseman whether male or female, knows that the only way to be truly great with horses is to do just this….tap into their frequency.  To take on board their feedback.  To listen, pay attention and take your cue from them.  Then and only then, will life between horse and human become as simple, safe, calm and solid as it should be.

We have to stop making things difficult for horses to do the right thing and instead do our very best to help them to be right.  Stop the blame, stop the make, stop the silencing of their opinions and instead listen and learn.

Horses are simple.  They are kind, fun, playful, intelligent and clever.  They can tell us and teach us everything we ever need to learn.  If we take our lead from them, they’ll tell us what we need to know; when it’s okay to move on and when it’s not.  If you are a good horseman, you’ll know that you need very few ‘tools’, or constraints or any gadgets.

But you do need compassion.  For it is what is in your heart that will out in the end.  If your heart is filled with thoughts of ownership, dominance, submission or make, this will all manifest itself in the kind of relationship you have with your horse.  There is no room for impatience, force, fear or intolerance.  And you know, you can say the right words, use the right lingo, be pretty handy with a rope or even be a good rider, but if the intention in your heart is not working in favour of your horse and truly getting the best outcome for their well being, confidence and happiness, they will know.  And they’ll express it pretty quickly.

What do you do when your horse tries to tell you something?  Do you try to cover it up?  Silence it in someway?  Strap it in and down or closed so no one else knows?  If so, your days are numbered.  More and more people are becoming aware of what is going on here.  They are understanding that the more ‘stuff’ you use on your horse, the less you really ‘get’ horses.  Make no mistake, the gear you use or think is okay, tells the rest of the world way more about you than it does about your poor horse.

So at the end of all my thinking, and all my pondering, I realised one thing.  It really doesn’t matter what method, technique or school of thought you use.  Because if you have good things in your heart, you’ll always find a way of applying even the worst of ideas and methods, in a good and kind way.  And if your heart is filled with make and dominance, you’ll interpret even the kindest of approaches with ideas of advantage and mastery.

So choose at will!  I wish you well in your search for whatever works for you and your horse.  But remember, in the end, what comes out through your hands will depend on what first comes from your heart.

– Meredith Ransley

Quantum Savvy March 2016

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Suffer not in silence

For Diesel_BBB_1an intelligent species, humans can be pretty dim at times.  We can also be pretty callous, cruel, arrogant and ignorant.  Possibly never more so than when it comes to horses.

How is it that when our horse has an issue with something and tries to tell us, instead of simply listening to them and taking on their feedback, that we look at a way of silencing them?  He bucks, we punish him,  he tosses his head, we tie it down.  He grinds his teeth, we strap his mouth shut – or worse!  He won’t go, we kick, he runs off we pull harder on his mouth.  He gets even more impulsive and runs off harder, shies at everything, pulls on the reins, pushes on our hands and legs and we, the ever inventive species, come up with more and more ways and even more gadgets to control, entrap, subdue and silence the physical behavior.  And when we do succeed, even for a time, we applaud ourselves on our cleverness of fixing the problem.

We can no longer see it, so it must have gone away.  Well done us.

For some reason, it never occurs to us that there is something wrong and that our horse would tell us what, if we’d only listen.  But we’re so quick so try to control them and make the behavior go away so that we feel better, that we don’t stop to consider how our poor horse feels.

And if the gadgets don’t work, we can buy special feeds to calm our horse down, numb his mind and suppress his anxiety.  We could of course just take a moment to wonder why our horse is anxious, scared, nervous, defensive, aggressive in the first place.  But we don’t.  That would mean taking responsibility for our horses behavior when it is much simpler just to blame him.

Horses are pretty straight forward.  Most issues a horse has can be solved pretty easily if we just take the time to listen.  Stopping the behavior doesn’t fix the problem, it just masks it so it can someday manifest itself in another, generally much worse way.

The more ‘stuff’ you need when working with or riding your horse, the more I would encourage you to stop, take a step back and listen to your horse.  Things shouldn’t be that difficult,  complex or dangerous.  Horses are extremely tolerant, sensitive animals who will tell us all we need to know if we take the trouble to tune in to them and tap into their frequency instead of expecting them to tune in to ours.  That is just ego.  Put it aside, try to understand how your horse feels, communicate with them and try to help them be right instead of blaming them when things go wrong.  Then both of you will have a much happier and more fulfilling existence.

Meredith Ransley 2016

Quantum Savvy

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The ‘Perfect’ pair of hands!

HIMtwoYou know…..just reflecting more on this whole master rein business. And how it is supposed to be like ‘the perfect pair of hands’. What possesses us to think that our hands should be fixed? Given the desired forward, flowing movement of a horse, when you think logically about how much movement there is in the head and neck (wither, back etc) of the horse, why do we not put two and two together? If your hands aren’t moving, and your seat can’t move because of the fashion of saddle design at the moment, of high backs and huge knee rolls, where is the movement supposed to go? If your hands aren’t sympathetic and are fixed. the poor horse’s mouth has to absorb all that movement. Think about how much pain this must cause the horse and how heavy it would make them. Add to that the fashion of riders to sit upright, perched with their spinal column stacked bone upon bone (instead of tucking your tail under you and allow your hips to absorb the movement) you then also have a rider just banging up and down on the horse’s back. And we wonder why they poke their noses out and hollow their backs. Riders of all levels do it and are quick to blame the horse and strap him in and down instead of taking on his unhappy feedback.

I’ve currently got my Level 3 group working on their feel and developing lightness in their hands and in their horses. They are practising by sitting on a fit-ball while holding a piece of wool as reins (just tie it around a post or similar). Their goal then is to do all of their rein positions and transitions up and down, via their seat (hips, upper leg only) without changing tension on the wool. The result, lightness, softness and harmony of horse and rider. And almost no weight on the reins.

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You don’t need a bridle – connect with his mind and his body will follow



If a horse’s movement, power, collection and impulsion come from the hindquarter, shouldn’t the bridle go on their tail?

Since the earliest times of horse / human relationships, we’ve been obsessed with getting leverage on the head of the horse.  In what has been a vain attempt to gain control and submission of these versatile, powerful creatures, has also been to the exclusion and detriment of the best the horse has to offer.  For if you get control of his head, you lose his mind, heart and full capacity of his movement and power.

What we say, do and teach in Quantum Savvy, is often very different to conventional thoughts and teachings when it comes to horses.   From the point that we begin always with ground work, the way we sit when we ride, the way we ask our horses to carry themselves, our focus on riding the whole horse, being able to communicate with the horse’s entire body and not just trying to somehow control them by getting a hold of their heads. And so on.

I was having a really interesting conversation with someone the other day, about changing the focus of riders from this one simple yet fundamental cornerstone of horse riding. The lady I was speaking with had some really great questions about why we, in QS, do what we do and how it affects our horses. She had a pretty conventional background in dressage and eventing and was of the belief that some horses simply could not go without a bridle. She also felt therefore, that anyone who could ride without a bridle, must obviously have a lot of great things going for them with their horse.

As a case in point, she sent me a video of a top European rider, doing a bridle-less demonstration on one of her competition horses. Watching the video and the way the horse moved, I could tell pretty quickly that although the horse did indeed have nothing on it’s head, it must have been ‘trained’ to be ridden bridle-less, rather than developed to the point that it could be ridden this way. And believe me there is a huge difference.

A bit of internet research on the rider, confirmed my thoughts. The horse’s movement looked forced, mechanical and contained. Typical of a horse that has spent many hours being lunged, ridden and trained in general, in a fixed position. If this is done enough times, for sufficient hours, the horse will hold it’s position for a time, after the bridle is taken off. Sometimes the training will last for a few minutes, and sometimes for hours.  Just as any training with horses does. How often do horse owners send their horses to the trainer to get them going ‘right’ and tune them in? A process that must be repeated every so often because it is training….not teaching or communication. So it doesn’t last. It doesn’t stick. Some horses are more adept at accepting and holding their training and some rebel against it. You’ll find more about this in the horse training section of my book.

There are two ways to achieve bridle less riding. One is the way we do it….by working up to it, preparing our horses and ourselves and developing a strong communication and understanding between us. All of our early riding is without a bridle….we ride in a rope halter or hackamore and earn the right to eventually go to a bridle. By which time we no longer need one anyway. Many people then choose to continue to ride without a bridle.

The other way is to do as I mentioned above…..train your horse with repetition to do what he is told and what is expected of him. Aside from the obvious issues that are detrimental to the horse, this method is part of an ongoing process. It’ll only ever get so good, the horse’s movement will never look natural and flowing and it doesn’t stick. It has a shelf life and also a safety issue. Under pressure, if things go badly, there is no real communication between horse and rider so the rider is then at the mercy of the horse’s instincts. If you’ve ever been on a horse who has forgotten you are there, you’ll understand just what a terrifying thought this is.

Riding bridle less or working at liberty is not definitive proof of good horsemanship or even of a good understanding of horses. In fact, in many cases, what people do to achieve these results is no better than what others do with the obvious use of tools, leverage, fear and force. We need to create an awareness of the difference.

Our goal…that of Shane and myself and the QS Team, is to change the paradigm and the global beliefs of all horse lovers and owners. We need to fundamentally change the way people understand, interact and communicate with horses. We’ve got to get away from traditional use of force and leverage and the general acceptance of these things as standard practise.  Sadly, so much of this is such a part of the day to day dealings with horses that no one even questions it.

We are not anti-bit. Not at all.  As well meaning as they are, people who are against bits still don’t get it. It has nothing to do with the head of the horse. It is about communicating with the whole horse. Of engaging his mind and his emotions. If you do that, there is no more need for control with your horse than there is with your spouse, child, work mate or friend. This is what people do not understand. We do not need tools to ‘control’ horses.   If fact, the more tools we need, the less understanding of horses we have.  What we do need is to properly understand how to listen to them, communicate with them and create rapport with each other. This is an equal partnership.

If you can do that then you don’t need a bridle, regardless of if it has a bit or not. This is why we also don’t like bitless bridles. Many of these are no better than bitted bridles, as they still focus on leverage and control of the head.

The other side of this is that to achieve true forward, soft flexion in both lateral and vertical movement, collection and elevation, you need to be able to communicate with the whole body of the horse. None of these things come from the head and never have. It astounds me how many people think they do. How many horses do we see running and playing in the field in full flexion, doing everything we ever dreamed of doing with them, without a bridle or bit in sight! Collection and forward come from the horse being laterally soft from nose to tail, engaged in the hind and lifting through the back. If you have that, then the head-set of the horse will be what it will be. It will depend on the suppleness of the horse, the confidence of the horse, the willingness of the horse and confirmation of the horse. Some horses find it easy to offer vertical flex without any real engagement of the hind or lateral softness, just because of their breed. Others will be quite developed in their education (what we term education) and soft through the body but are not able to offer a lot of vertical flex again because of confirmation. Vertical flex should be the last thing anyone looks at when it comes to judging whether a horse is collected or not. Classical Dressage masters knew this, which is why a vertically flexed horse in the early stages of classical training, is frowned upon. But in Competitive Dressage it is so desired, that many riders whose horse is not yet ready for vertical flex, resort to use short-cuts and cruel methods to achieve it. And in the process sacrifice true engagement, forward and softness.

In QS, we focus on achieving lateral softness and forward through the whole horse before we ask for collection and engagement. This is why you will see many horses in the early stages, not yet vertical. It is not our focus. However what you will see is horses who are very light, very soft, very responsive, very happy and very forward. It is beautiful. As they go through the levels and become more confident in contact (shorter reins asking for more collection), fitter and stronger, you’ll see them offer greater and greater collection and elevation of movement. It really is a spectacular thing to see. And all the while the reins are very light. In my Harmony in Motion classes, I actually (jokingly) ban my students from using more than 2 fingers on the reins. If they have to close their third finger, their horse is getting too heavy.   So they either need to rest (because the horse is tired from carrying themselves in such a strong position),or go back to lateral work to soften the horse through the body again, because they have become braced somewhere.

As I watched the video of the bridle-less rider, the horse looked very heavy (even without a bit!), forced and unnatural.  All signs of a horse who has been ‘trained’ with no option, and for many hours, using repetition and a lot of leverage.  All of which just trains the good bits out of your horse. In my opinion the horse’s movement was ugly. A quick look at the riders facebook page had revealed many photos of horses just as I suspected, being trained in leverage with no options. If you do enough of this, it will hold for a while. Long enough to do a demo or two and then it’s back to the leverage again. Probably even in the warm-up arena.

In April and May of this year, Shane and myself and many of our Team, are doing a 2-month tour of Queensland to create more awareness of the need for change. We will be doing free demos in each of the towns we visit, but more importantly we are opening up the doors to anyone and everyone to come and watch us all, every day during the following week, practising and playing with our horses. What we want to show people is that you can achieve collection without leverage, you can do piaffe without spurs, you can lead without a halter, you can connect without a lead rope, you can communicate without force and that control is not safety nor the basis for a happy partnership.

Conventional thinking around horses is not the way to achieve your dreams. Lightness, softness, willingness and harmony can be achieved by anyone, but it’s time to stop trying to control the horse’s head and start to communicate with the whole horse; body, mind and soul.

Meredith Ransley – Quantum Savvy Feb 2016

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Change your heart, change your horse.

QSEthreeWithout warning the horse turned and lunged at it’s owner, teeth bared, ears pinned. I quickly stepped in to help and no one (or horse!) was hurt but the owner was left shaken naturally, for some minutes. The horse did not have any follow through or any real intent to hurt it’s owner, or else it surely would have had it wanted to, but what could cause such a seemingly unprovoked attack?

Horses will always respond directly to what they get from us. Where as humans will most often respond to what we see or physically feel or experience, a horse will respond to anything and everything in their environment. In the more obvious of cases for example, they’ll shy from a sudden movement or noise, bite or kick if they feel pain or under threat, bolt or buck if scared or hurt. But they also respond and just as clearly, to things they feel and sense. And this includes the energy we give off and the intention or purpose of our very thoughts and feelings.

To us, as humans who are really no where near as adept at reading these intangibles, these action and reactions often just manifest as mysterious and perplexing behaviors.

But rest assured, these things are just as real to a horse as the sun shining in the sky, the grass they eat and the dog that leaps out from the bushes.

We do see it and acknowledge it in small ways quite often. I’m sure we can all think of a horse who allows some humans to approach it but not others. Or farriers, vets, chiropractors who quickly put a horse at ease and yet others who always seem to have trouble with the exact same horse! Or the day we come home from work upset and in a bad mood and consequently our horse behaves badly that day.

But, it is even more than this. More common place, more everyday and more frequent than many horse lovers realise.

This is going to sound really obvious but I would ask you to really consider what I’m about to discuss.

If we can change our heart, we change our horse.

Anxiety, fear, anger, trepidation…..all of the unwelcome human emotions, effect our horses just as clearly as a spur or a whip. If you approach a horse with any of these in your heart, he or she will respond in kind. Even if, by all intents and purposes, outwardly at least, you look exactly the same as the next person who feels none of these things, your horse will be able to tell. Of course, if you look close enough, you’ll see that there is a stiffness, a tension, hesitation about a person feeling these emotions. But many times we don’t see these things. We may even be good at disguising them from others, or even from ourselves! But there are no secrets when it comes to horses. They know. They can sense it, see it, smell it and distinguish it for what it really is. And as a flight-response prey animal, have the intelligence to know that its not good.

And so, the calm horse gets anxious, the confident horse gets wary, the quiet horse is hard to catch and the steady reliable horse gets nippy and threatening. And we wonder why?

We look for answers everywhere. We call our friends, the vet, the horse trainer, the holistic expert but nothing really seems to work long term. Because the answer we seek is not ‘out there’. The problem instead is looking us right in the face…..at least when we look in the mirror.

We’ve heard the phrase before. Your horse is your mirror, and this is very true. But sometimes the mirror is cloudy and hard to see into. Or it’s cracked so we get a warped reflection. And sometimes it just isn’t as simple as that. For all that we look, we still cannot see. It takes a very brave person to look objectively in the mirror and give themselves an honest, objective and solutionary reply rather than one that just focuses on what’s wrong.

So put aside your mirror and instead of looking for answers, try listening. If your horse is doing something you don’t want, no matter how big or small, the answer will always be to listen. Your horse is giving you feedback. He or she is trying and trying and sometimes trying!…to tell you something that you aren’t hearing.

You can keep at your horse as much as you want, trying to fix him and change him but you’ll get nothing of the sort. Unless you are prepared to change yourself, change what is in your heart, then nothing will change. You might train your horse or teach him to submit or succumb but in his heart and soul, nothing is changed. Only the way he feels about you because no matter how hard he tried, you didn’t hear him.

The trouble is that we just want our horses to be on our frequency. We spend so much time and effort trying to get them to do what we want and no where near enough effort on taking into consideration what our horse needs.

If you have what I call a ‘Good Boy’ horse, he’ll put up with you, find what it is that he can live with and be, to keep you happy. A ‘Good Boy’ horse will put up with and tolerate a heck of a lot. And we feel like we’re pretty marvelous because our horse does what is asked, does as he’s told and doesn’t complain too much. And sometimes, this most social of creatures will come to us for a scratch or a rub, reaffirming just what a good job we’re doing. He has figured out your frequency, he can live with it for the sake of peace and relative harmony and so all is good in the world.

Other horses simply won’t put up with it. Not even in a small amount. This is true most often of young horses who haven’t yet figured out that the best route is to just give in. What these horses need us to do, is to find their frequency. Tune into them and find what it is that they need, how they need to move, express themselves, exist. Once we’ve done that, then we can begin to introduce our ideas but only when and if the horse is ready.

A good horseman can and should do this fairly quickly. A horseman worth her or his salt, will be able to find the horse’s frequency, listen to the horse’s feedback and work together from this aspect, in a pretty short space of time. This is as it should be. If someone is taking weeks or even months to tap into the horse’s frequency and be able to have a basic conversation with the horse, they’re missing something. They either aren’t listening, are not hearing or don’t understand the conversation. When this happens and a period of time elapses, this time spent with the horse turns from conversation to training. And the period of teaching the horse to give in, to succumb and retreat begins. The best of the horse begins to die.

Many, many times I have seen horses being misunderstood. Misdiagnosed and mistreated. They are blamed for their actions and behaviors when all the while it was what was in the heart (and mind) of the human that caused the issue in the first place. Horses get reprimanded, punished, blamed all the time, every where. They get medicated, isolated and sent to the trainer to be fixed. Which fixes nothing.

I’ve seen anxious horses contained and controlled, aggressive horses hit and beaten, ‘dangerous’ horses kept in isolation, treated with extreme caution and prejudice and even put-down, all because the human was either not aware of, could not or would not control what was in their own heart.

A little bit of anger and frustration will make a horse fearful and flighty. Anxiety can make a horse aggressive and defensive, trepidation can make a horse cautious, nervous and reactionary.

If you desire to have your horse and yourself on the same wavelength, to both be confident and fully enjoying yourselves together and for him or her to cut you some slack from time to time, it must first begin with you. Change what is in your heart, listen to your horse’s feedback and put effort into tuning into their frequency and you will change your horse, forever.

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Whose fault is it anyway? The truth about vices.

QSE front cover 3Why is it that we are so quick to blame the horse when he does something ‘wrong’ and yet are quite happy to take the credit when things go right.

In this day and age when there is such a huge amount of information and advice on understanding horses and why they do what they do, as well as how to achieve a better relationship by learning how to communicate with them, why is it that we still cling to our traditional beliefs that the horse is our possession, one that should succumb to our will and perform in a manner of which we approve?

As horse lovers, there is so very much we admire about the horse. We love their speed and their stamina, so we race them against the clock and over great distances. We love their agility so we compete with them in sports like dressage and reining. We stand in awe at their strength and power so we show it off in show jumping and hunting. Their versatility amazes us, along with their instinct and intelligence so we enjoy sports with them like eventing, cutting and camp drafting. And we are awestruck by their beauty and presence, so we parade them in the ring in-hand and hacking. All are sports that require attributes like speed, strength, alertness and finely tuned instincts. And yet somehow or other we expect our horses to automatically understand when is the appropriate time to show these attributes and when they should remain dormant…..as if they can turn them on and off like a light switch.

Horses on the whole are fairly simple creatures to understand, provided we take the time to study them from their perspective instead of trying to pigeon-hole them into our human idea of what they should be. And this begins by simply looking at the world from their point of view. Basically horses are flight-response prey animals. A lot has already been said on this subject so a little research will reveal enormous amounts of information regarding this. Horses therefore, are pretty much finely tuned creatures, totally aware of their surroundings and naturally suspicious of predators. They are skeptical so they are easily scared and they rely on their flight-response to escape harm so they are quick to take flight. Some horses are more prone to flight than others. Yet others are more prepared to stand and fight to protect themselves or the herd. In a herd situation these roles are easily filled by various herd members….those that signal when to run and those who hang back to fight the intruder. Horses are also capable of overcoming their fears very quickly and recognizing familiar things that pose no threat.

And really that’s about it. Horses have survived and thrived for millennia because of their incredible awareness of their environment and their ability to listen and react immediately to their instincts. Unfortunately, these finely tuned instincts that aide the survival of the horse in the wild, very often work against us in a domestic situation. For example, horses that run off, bolt or shy are overly impulsive and lack confidence in movement. Horses that are dull or heavy lack impulsion and in the herd would most likely be the ones who stand and deliver. If a horse won’t go on the float, he’s telling you that he is unsure about this place you are asking him to go and doubts your leadership in what you are asking him to do. And horses that kick or bite are either fearful, or lacking respect for the receiver of these ‘gifts’…..or possibly both. There is no ‘naughty’ behavior or vices displayed, or evil intent lying hidden in the horse……these are simply labels applied by humans in an attempt to shoehorn the horse somehow into our environment and to things we understand.

In this case then, it would seem that there are no such things as vices, only misunderstandings of the horses survival instincts! The word vice implies that the horse is somehow being bad or naughty….misbehaving if you will. And yet for thousands of years, good horsemen have understood that any action or reaction of the horse, only reflects the level of knowledge or skill of its handler. Take any horse that is showing some level of ‘bad behavior’ such as bucking or being hard to catch and put him in the hands of a truly knowledgeable horseman and almost miraculously the behaviors disappear. Just about all horse owners can relate from their own personal experience, a situation where they have witnessed this first hand. And yet for some reason we humans, the most ‘intelligent’ creatures on Earth, seem to find it easier to proclaim that the doer of these deeds was either lucky or gifted in some way, than to
face the fact that perhaps we need to take some responsibility for becoming a better horsemen ourselves.

Of course, training horses is always an option and one that we seem quite happy to accept to fix our ‘bad’ problem horses. And because the horse is such a tolerant and compliant creature, training does often work – to a point. Horses on the whole are non-confrontational easy going souls who would rather do nothing than something, so if they find a way to find some peace and comfort, some way of being left alone even if it means doing something they don’t like, they’ll often submit and comply to keep the peace. And of course they are genuinely fearful of predators and of punishment, so if we strong-arm them enough, we can get them to do as we wish. All these attributes make them fairly easy to train, however any good trainer will tell you, that while they themselves can get the horse going nicely, it means little down the track if the horse’s owner lacks the skill to duplicate what they’ve done.

Some of our best horses, those with the most flair and panache (and therefore ability) are those who have spirit and opinions. These can prove harder to train as they will stand up for themselves and may not comply. Because of this, many great horses therefore end up in the dog food can. It seems while we admire a horse for its beauty and majesty, we prefer to buy one that is quiet and submissive. These are the traits that we most favour as manageable and yet they are not those needed for success in sport nor are they those that draw at our hearts.

What we see as vices are just our horses giving us feedback. Calling something a vice is just our way of saying that our horse is doing something that we not only don’t understand but that we also don’t have the skills to deal with. Training horses then, is something that we can live with because it shifts the blame for the problem onto the horse and the responsibility for it off of us.

All horses and humans can develop a relationship that is fun, safe and interesting for both parties. We just need to take the time and the trouble to look to ourselves and realise that it is us that needs to step up and become more worthy of them.

Meredith Ransley

Quantum Savvy 2004

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They’ll never understand

Where will today take us?

Where will today take us?

This is my favourite picture of Spydie and I.  It’s not a good photo in that it is blurry and the light was bad.  I don’t remember when it was taken.   I know where it was, but I don’t know who took it, nor was I aware that it was being taken.  And that’s why I love it so much.  It was not a photo taken deliberately with me smiling at the camera or trying to get a good angle or doing something clever….it was just a snapped moment in time of my best mate and I, so obviously enjoying ourselves.  Look how happy and relaxed we are, just loping around having fun together.

That is what makes it special.  Together.

A lot has happened this year.  For me, I’ve lost two of my dearest 4-legged mates and we’ve seen people losing their lives during bushfires here in Oz, trying to save their precious horses.  Once more I have found myself trying to explain to my non-horsie family and friends, just how important our horses are to us and what our relationships means.  I find it almost impossible.

Our horses are not pets, nor are they possessions.  They are our partners in almost every sense of the word.  We make each other better.  Achieve more together than we ever could on our own.  But that still doesn’t say enough does it?  People still don’t get it.

It struck me to the heart this last week, what it is that makes it special. I’ve been editing the last of the QS Lesson Modules this last week and in doing that, I need to write editorial about each Module;  what they mean, what you learn as a student and what you’ll achieve when doing them.  Over and over again words like trust, connection, rapport, communication, understanding, repeat themselves throughout the entire thing.  Of course, there are many ‘tasks’ that we achieve also as we go through the programme, but it is all these things that our students want and demand from the QS programme.  This is what we search for eternally with our horses.

They are not just a companion that provides a pleasurable way to get around and see the sights on the weekend.  We are, for the most part, constantly working on a deeper relationship.  It’s not enough just to be together, hang out, go for a ride…whatever.  We want that thing that bring us together, that unites us in spirit and soul and that leaves us both feeling like we’ve connected, achieved and come out the other side filled with the joy that only a shared experience can bring.

Spydie died on Christmas day.  It was sudden…he had had a paddock accident two weeks prior…and it was devastating for me.  He was there, and then he wasn’t.  He was 24 years old and at the end of his career but not his life.  He had so much still to offer in so many ways, for many more years.  He was an emotional horse, not brave or confident in himself, but with me he could do anything.  He got his confidence from me and in return I got his try and his dependability. He had my back.  Always.  He was so reliable and always put in his best effort, even if he was tired or sore or found things hard.  We did things together that neither of us could do on our own. He was always there for me.  We traveled Australia, literally, and did countless demonstrations for countless people in both the biggest of arenas to the meanest of showgrounds.

I remember one night, having arrived late after a long day of hold ups, doing a demo in the semi dark.  The lighting was bad as they had flood-lights pointing straight at us so we couldn’t see….we were blinded by the light.  The sound system was cranked full bore and pounded out of just one speaker straight in front of us instead of spread around, so we also couldn’t hear.  That night, I pulled him out of the float, had about 10 minutes to warm him up after he had traveled all day and then we were on.  He couldn’t see me, he couldn’t hear me….we had to virtually feel our way.  And still he put in.  Our demo was working at liberty and then bareback and bridle-less.  He sailed over those upright barrels that he could barely see and carried me around doing lead changes and pirouettes and didn’t put a foot wrong.  He had never been in that arena in his life, he hadn’t even had a chance to check it out and although he would have been aware of the hundreds of scary humans somewhere out in the darkness beyond the lights, he could not have seen them.  But he trusted me then as he had many times before and since.  When the music stopped and it was my turn to speak, I just cried….I couldn’t speak for a moment because the tears of gratitude just overwhelmed me.

Another time when NSW was flooded over more than half of the state, we had to go 400km out of our way to get to a demo in Victoria.  So instead of arriving in the morning with time to rest the horses and settle in, we got there right as the demo was due to start.  The crowds were all seated and waiting, the music was on.  We literally got the horses off of the float, tired and stiff after a long hot day of travel and once again, he just stepped out there and made me look good.  Spydie, you were a Legend.  There is no other word.   You never understood a word of what I said but you always knew what I meant.

I still don’t know if I can explain to non-horse folk just what our horses mean to us.  Why we put our lives on the line for them and can never do enough to thank them for all they give us.  Maybe it’s because they never ask anything of us, that we feel we can never do enough in return.  They make us better for knowing them.  We constantly strive to be better for them.  To be worthy.

Spydie, I miss you and I thank you; for being my rock, my mirror and my shelter in the storm.  I could always count on you.  You were faithful and true and stepped up to the plate each and every time I asked it of you, and there were so, so many times.

Only a horse could give so much and expect so little in return.

-Meredith Ransley

Quantum Savvy January 2016

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Building Rapport – Part 1


Have you ever been in a relationship with perhaps a spouse, family member, friend or workmate, where you felt that no matter what you did or said, or how good your intentions were, the other person just took everything the wrong way and you had to be careful what you said and how you went about them? What about the opposite situation? Have you been in a relationship where you and the other person just clicked, you understood each other and were ‘on the same wave-length’?

Which relationship would you prefer to be in? Which would you be happiest in and more likely to work at if it experienced difficulties? It’s a pretty simple question to answer isn’t it, however when it comes to horses, a great many horse / human relationships fall into the first category. A relationship that has little or no rapport.

So, what is rapport? More and more these days, horse owners are beginning to understand the need to communicate with their horses. And communication is a great thing to have, however it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Can you think of a time when you were communicating with someone but it wasn’t necessarily pleasant?

Rapport is two individuals who see eye to eye, who have trust in each other and who are both willing partners in the relationship. The ultimate connection if you like.

As horse owners, so often we get all caught up in the ownership of the horse; we buy the horse thinking that that makes him ‘ours’. We take really good care of him…..feeding him, brushing him, perhaps rugging him and providing him with shelter etc and then when it comes to handling and riding him, we subconsciously expect him to just do as we wish and be nice to us because we have been nice to him. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. We might be providing him with what ‘we’ think’ he needs, however, how many of us truly take the time to consider what ‘he or she really’ needs.

If we want to catch him, we just go get him without pausing to see how he feels about it. Then we are baffled to find out that maybe he doesn’t want to be caught. We want to ride, so we just saddle him up and get on; again in many cases without even considering how he feels about it. We want him to jump the jump, cross the ditch, leave his friends behind and we are surprised and a little annoyed when he shows some resistance to doing as we ask. After all, we bought him that nice new rug to keep him warm and got the really juicy crunchy carrots he likes. He should do what we want!

As much as horses like juicy carrots, they really do not care too much about whether they get them or not, if they do not first have a few basic needs of their own filled. For horses, their number one priority is to feel safe. Being a prey animal, this is an absolute must. Until they feel safe with and around you, nothing else matters, no matter how ‘nice’ you think you’ve been to them, this will count for nothing if he feels insecure. If you take the time to build the kind of relationship he really needs, gain rapport with your horse, he will relax with you, give you the benefit of the doubt and trust you…….even if he feels like you are asking a lot of him, he’ll still try for you. We’ve all experienced the huge amount of heart and desire horses can have for a human……imagine if you had that kind of relationship with your horse ALL the time!

If you do not have rapport in your relationship, chances are that you will find some resistances in your horse. He may be hard to catch, or lead, or to pick up his feet. He’ll be more prone to kick out if you are around his back end, or it may show up with him not wanting to go onto the horse float. If your horse truly saw you as his great leader and friend, would he ever try to bite you or buck you off? On the contrary, when riding, if he felt you getting a little unstuck, he’d be more likely to duck back underneath you to keep you on. Can you imagine what it would be like to have that kind of relationship with your horse; one where he was an equal and willing partner in it and really enjoyed his time with you. Where he tried to help you out rather than help you off!

Take the time to build rapport with your horse, in all things ask him first how he feels about it. It will pay off enormously if you do.

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The illusion of safety – it’s not about the horse!

20121015 HIM 063 Humans are the most incredible of species. We are so creative, inventive and full of fantastic ideas on how to make, fix or improve things that it’s almost mind-boggling. You’ve only got to pay a visit to the nearest tack store to see evidence of this……bits and training aids for all occasions, books full of handy hints on how to fix your horse and train him to do what you want and for almost every unfortunate mishap that has ever prevailed itself upon the poor human, we have all sorts of safety aids and devices to protect us. And yet, even with all of this wellintentioned advice and equipment, unfortunately everyday somewhere in the world, people are still getting hurt and killed around horses.

Studies show that in Australia alone there are more than three thousand serious injuries each year, just related to actual horse riding, not including horse-handling injuries like biting, kicking and crushing. That’s more than eight people per day. More than twenty of these result in death and seven hundred result in serious brain injury!

For the ever safety and security conscious human, it seems that almost every month there is some new device invented that will control or contain the horse in some way and failing that will protect us if the worst should happen. And each thing seems to take us further and further from our dream of freedom and exhilaration, that only the magnificent horse can bring us. Perhaps then, we should content ourselves with riding a push-bike or perhaps just watching videos of other people enjoying their equine partnerships!

For all of us horse true lovers though, this is not an option is it! And of course, we all want to be as safe as we can around our horses for both our sake and theirs…..after all, who gets the blame when things go badly for horse and rider; whose reputation is tarnished once again?

Current trends support supposed safety measures that contain the horse and protect the rider from physical harm and no one can blame the powers that be for doing so……something must be done. How much better though, if we put this large brain that we have and all its powers for fixing problems, to the issue of achieving real and consistent safety for riders by equipping them with by far the best safety tool available…..true knowledge!

Real safety is knowledge, not wrapping yourself up in protective clothing or body armour, which may even give you a false sense of security.

Through our journey to achieving horsemanship, we have discovered that you can try to control the horse, his environment and circumstances as much as you like. Don all the protective gear you can find, take every precaution and while you will certainly be better off should some mishap occur, you are still far from guaranteed safety. In fact, knowing what we do about how the horse perceives emotions, particularly fear in the rider, you are more likely to cause something to happen with your very expectations. I agree that we should take every safety precaution possible and helmets and vests do make a difference, however it’s not enough. And wearing protective gear can, as I’ve mentioned already, give the rider a false sense of security. Far too many people are still getting hurt. So how then do we increase our chances of being safe around horses and even better, enjoying our time with them?

Knowledge, pure and simple is the key. Even now after many years of ‘natural’ horsemanship being available to riders, common sense around horses is still largely based on the human perception of the world. Looking at things from the horse’s point of view, understanding his behaviour and why he does what he does, is still not commonly considered. His actions and reactions are still interpreted from a human perspective and dealt with accordingly, which more often than not simply makes the situation worse. The results of which then sadly become just accepted behaviours and beliefs about horses. In the eyes of many, they become creatures that are flighty, highly strung, unpredictable and potentially dangerous, when in actuality the opposite is closer to the truth. You have only to look at a herd of horses in the field to see their true natures. For the most part they are quiet, peaceful creatures content to graze and socialize. For only a small portion of the day do they play and on occasion, when they perceive danger, do they run and express postures of fear and confusion. And yet, all around the world every day, there are horses interacting with humans displaying the latter far more frequently than the former. And still we, the intelligent species, have not quite managed to make the connection.

We already have a natural barrier between us, that of predator and prey. Treating a horse like another predator, a dog for instance, is more likely to create an adverse reaction than a favourable one. Reprimanding a horse for not standing still – for example growling at it, yanking on the lead rope, or trying to make it stand still – will only cause the flight-response prey animal to feel even more fearful at being in the hands of a predator. All of these actions portrayed by humans, are those of a predator. So even if the horse was initially feeling only slightly uncomfortable, his fear could quickly escalate into something more serious and more dangerous, when treated this way.

We’ve all seen what a horse can do if he desperately feels the need to escape. Freedom to a horse, is even more important that the risk of injury and they will often hurt themselves and any poor human who happens to be in the way, in the process of achieving it. The big problem is that the horse then gets labeled naughty or crazy, which is our human perception, rather than more truthfully seen as simply being scared. We reprimand the horse for misbehaving, the horse gets more scared, we reprimand him some more and again he gets more scared until the whole scenario ends up being dangerous for both horse and human and of course the horse gets the blame for our lack of understanding.

True knowledge and understanding about what makes horses tick, why they do what they do and how to influence their behaviour in a positive way that is beneficial to both horse and rider, is the only way to increase safety and security for both. This is the ultimate case of prevention being far better than cure, as only with this true understanding can a huge proportion of horse related accidents be avoided and in many cases be prevented altogether.

A little bit of knowledge goes along way, however until we set the standard of seeking this knowledge and educating all horse riders to truly understand horses, nothing will change. While we continue to accept the current methodology and beliefs about horses and try to use traditional forms of control and containment, people will continue to get hurt.

Meredith Ransley
co founder Quantum Savvy


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So you think you have Control! – even Thoroughbreds can do it.

Meredith Ransley bareback ridingI often wonder why so many people, of the horse riding variety, seem to be under the false illusion that they can control a horse…..at all. By what logic do we think that a mere human can control and contain a 450kg, 60kph, reactionary, emotion driven, flight response prey animal? Worse still, control them by strapping something to their heads and then pulling on it! If you stop to think about it logically, how could a tiny little human, not even a quarter of the size and strength of a horse, ever hope to get control of it, if it decided to be ‘elsewhere’? When you think about a horse’s power and speed coming from it’s hindquarter, and it’s emotional triggers coming from it’s instincts, what good is a bit of leather on a horse’s head and a piece of metal in it’s mouth going to do? About the only thing it can do, when a horse really wants to flee, is cause incredible amounts of pain. And if common sense then prevailed, no one would want to be sitting on the back of such a big, strong animal if it was scared AND in pain….so where is the sense in that?

Why would you want to control your horses? As a horse lover, I don’t recall ever thinking, or hearing any of my horse-loving friends saying, “Gosh, I can’t wait to get out there and control my horse today! What fun.”

In the more than 20 years that I’ve been teaching horsemanship, by far and away, the most commonly shared goal or dream with horses, is people wanting a better connection with their horse. Between this desire and wanting to be safe and confident, there is never a mention of more control. And yet that is what many people resort to when the connection just is not there. We dream of this incredible partnership, but are reduced to accepting what we believe is control, because that is the extent of our understanding of horses. After thousands of years of interacting with horses on a daily basis, it’s a pretty sad state I feel.

Being successful as a rider and surviving the ride isn’t about control. It isn’t even about the horse’s head. Why, for so many centuries have we continued to get it so wrong?

I ride in a bridle. Quite often. But I never use it for control, nor am I under the impression that it will give me any control. That is not what a bridle is for. I can also ride all of my horses, in varying degrees, without a bridle either bitted or un-bitted. Many of my friends and all of my students ride without a bit and bridle as do many thousands of people around the world, on all types of horses. I even ride my thoroughbred ex-racehorses without a bridle, or anything on their heads at all!

We all do this because we know that success with horses is not about control. In fact, horses (being prey animals) react very badly to any form of control and the more control you try to force onto them, the worse their response tends to be. Control, to a horse, equals lack of freedom of movement…which is a horse’s primary survival technique. I doubt that any human ever really achieves control. At best I would say they achieve containment. And again, containment of such a big, strong animal is the last thing you want, especially in the event they become scared or feel trapped. We’ve all heard a long-standing horse owner say things like, “He’s never done anything like this before, then one day he just…….(bolted, kicked, bucked etc)”. And they say it with some surprise! There should be no surprise. You can’t control a horse anymore than you can control the weather. You may be able to contain it for a time, or even direct it, again for a time. But sooner or later you’ll repeat those words, “All of a sudden he just…….”

Maybe you’re one of those people lucky enough to have a quiet horse who doesn’t need controlling? If so, that is wonderful. As long as your horse isn’t one of those who have simply surrendered their soul. One who realises that the fight is already lost, who has truly been ‘broken’ and who exists as a kind of shadow of the horse it was born to be. Believe me, there are countless of these and it is heart-breaking. The ‘Good Boys’ who just exist within the shell of themselves, having discovered how to keep their humans happy and off their case.

In this instance, you don’t need anything on your horse’s head anyway. Wonderful! Until the day he wakes up again.

But this is not an article about riding in a bit or with no bit. Whether you do or whether you don’t, is up to you and what you do with your horse. There are some who say that their horse is so strong, so impulsive and so hard-headed that they need a bridle and every kind of torture device known to man, to stay safe. To maintain control. I’m sorry, but that just speaks volumes about their lack of horsemanship knowledge. Or their lack of knowledge about horses even.

The point is, that it is not about bits or no bits – there are plenty of bitless bridles that are no better than bitted ones and that are still controlling, pain inducing devices. This is about the whole idea of controlling the horse by entrapping it’s head. Communication, safety and connection are about pretty much everything but the actual head, unless you refer to what is inside it! If you think riding horses somehow revolves around leveraging the head you’re way off track. Plenty of horses with the worst kind of bits, tie-downs, gags and so on, have still managed to run off with, buck off or lay down on, their riders. Inflicting more pain and more control on the horse, does not work and makes even less sense.

Have you ever stopped to consider why it is, that so many people nowadays can ride their horses, even their hot blooded Thoroughbreds and Arabs, with no bridle and nothing on their horse’s heads? And if so, why the rest of the horse owning world is so resistant to change, even to point of ignorance and stupidity? Horses are safe, simple creatures. If you take the time to truly listen to them and understand them, to build a relationship of trust and connection with them and teach them to think and to be confident in your leadership, you’ll find out what true horsemanship really is.

You can resist it all you want, if you persist in thinking that rider control and safety comes from containing a horse’s head. But each day, more and more people are discovering true communication with horses and are realizing what a dinosaur this makes you. Like the dinosaurs, this kind of thinking will also become extinct.

Time to change.

Meredith Ransley


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What good is obedience without understanding?

Meredith & Dirk BCHF 2004 009I was watching ‘The Miracle Worker’ the other day…the story of Anne Sullivan; the amazing woman who gave a ‘voice’ to another incredible woman – Helen Keller. During her childhood years in the late 1800s, until about aged 7, Helen (who was deaf and blind and hence mute), lived and behaved much as a wild animal. She had no way of communicating with anyone, or of having her thoughts, wants or needs met. No way of expressing herself other than through physical violence at the frustration she felt on the inside, and no way of getting feedback from others other than restraint or punishment from most and cuddles from her Mother.

Anne Sullivan was a truly remarkable woman. She was able to get through to Helen, to teach her, to listen to her and to communicate with her. At one point early on in the story, she was able to teach Helen to behave; to have some form of manners and respect and to not lash out when she felt anger or frustration. Basically, Helen now did what she was ‘told’. Helen’s Father was grateful and expressed as much to Anne. But his well-meant compliment was only met by frustration and anger from Anne. “What good”, she said, “is obedience without understanding?”

What good was it for Helen, to function and behave in the human world without her needs being met, without her feelings being understood, without her ideas being important to anyone else? It wasn’t good enough for Anne thank goodness, for what would the world be without Helen Keller? And it is not good enough for me either, when it comes to horses.

Early this year  during an interview for a German magazine, I was asked what makes me sad? It was an easy question to answer but one I think many people will find difficult to understand. But these words from Anne Sullivan come very close to my meaning. What good is an obedient horse with no real thought to understanding them?

What makes me unutterably sad, are the ‘accepted’ norms and behaviours around horses. It is so easy for anyone to be up in arms about down-right cruelty when it comes to horses. The blood rule, bits and gags that look like devices from medieval torture chambers, over-flexion, whipping, tying-up, sacking out, severing nerves….the list goes on and on. These are the easy ones and any decent human would stand up to someone doing any of these things (I hope they would at least!) and speak up for the horse. But this isn’t it. This is easy. The truly sad bits are the day to day things that everyone thinks are okay and are accepted as ‘just the way things are’ when it comes to horses.

When I was asked this question, a picture came instantly to mind. A picture of a woman, riding her horse on a grassy oval, having the time of her life, much as I’d seen thousands of others doing all over the world. I’m sure she felt she loved her horse although at the moment I was watching her, her horse was not feeling the joy. She had lunged him for 30 minutes before getting on, so the poor horse was tied in and down, with little or no option and made to go round and round in mind numbing circles in a cramped position. He didn’t put up much fuss because he was a ‘Good Boy’. So pretty soon he was ‘behaving’ himself and ‘settled’. I would say he’d given up! Then she hopped on. Immediately he was pulled into contact – which continued for the full time he was ridden – kicked almost constantly…not in a rough way but certainly unnecessarily….and pushed forward. With his rider poised over his forehand and hanging on to his head, it was a miracle he could go forward at all. Between banging away on his back as many riders do, and pulling on his head, he got a little upset for a while. He started tossing his head, chewing on the bit and refusing to go forward. A couple of cracks with the riding crop brought on a few pig roots but then he figured out the only way to get any peace was to do as he was told.

This is what makes me sad to the core. A typical horse rider, riding a typical horse, on a typical day. Nothing out of the norm, nothing stand out, just a normal days riding that so many of us have seen, and come to expect as what riding horses is all about.  No real understanding of how the horse feels or what he or she is trying to communicate.  When things don’t go well he is ‘naughty’ and when they do he’s a ‘Good-Boy’.

How many times have I seen this picture before and since. An unhappy horse who is punished for trying to communicate how he feels, the stress and anxiety building up in his body over a course of many years until one day he either just gives up and shuts down completely – and becomes the robotic shell of the magnificent creature he once was – or turns rogue and lets his human know exactly how he feels in no uncertain terms. And hence becomes labeled as naughty and dangerous…..a bastard of a horse.

The ‘naughty’ ones are easy. They are obvious, so we send them to the trainer and try to get them fixed. Or we buy more gadgets to try to control or at least curb the behaviour. But for each of these there are hundreds of the other, who just switch off, give up, withdraw and comply. You know it’s true….look at any add for horses for sale and you’ll see words like, submissive, compliant and trainable littered throughout. It seems everyone soon gives up the dream of a beautiful connection and partnership with their horse and settles for control and obedience.

But what good is obedience without understanding?

How many of us true horse lovers, really just want our horses to do as they’re told? Sadly, probably a lot! Much easier to have an obedient ‘good-boy’ horse than one who can, and is encouraged to, express his real feelings. If he did that, we might have to look in the mirror and realise that the source of all of our horses issues or problems are looking right back at us. It takes effort to change, to develop knew skills and knowledge. But it takes very little effort to care!

I sometimes ask myself why bother? Why bother trying to help people to understand horses, to listen to what their horses are trying to tell them, to realise that it doesn’t matter what they themselves think, but it does matter how their horses feel. To know that communication isn’t just getting our message across, it is just as much taking feedback from our horses also.

Horses shouldn’t chew on the bit, toss their heads, get sweaty from stress, get anxious, be nervous, shy, need to be held back, kicked to go, pulled on to stop, cross-tied, kick up their heals, paw the ground, have their heads tied in or down, need any strength to ‘control’ them, be ridden in constant contact. These and many more things are not ‘normal’, and they shouldn’t be accepted by us as standard practice. It is time we questioned all this and saw it for what it really is. Control in place of understanding.

Imagine if we swapped horses for dolphins! If we rode dolphins with spurs and a bit, in constant contact while we bounced away on their backs. And we kicked or whipped them if they didn’t do as we wanted! If we tied them into a forced position for hours on end. If we kept them in confinement and wouldn’t let them hang out with their friends. And yes….as some will remind me, they are wild animals, not domestic. So that means then that keeping an animal in captivity is an excuse to submit them to accepted abuse?

So, why bother? If, as it seems, most horse riders just want their horses to do as they’re told, to be their possession, to obey and behave, then surely it is a losing battle. But I don’t accept that. I still believe that there are many true horse lovers out there. People who really do want what is best for their horse and who, if they found a way to do it, would do better by them instead of just accepting the conventional ‘just because’ attitude we have at the moment in regard to horses.

What sort of horseman are you? Empathetic or apathetic?

What good is obedience without understanding?

Time to change!

Meredith Ransley


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Meri and Geoff_EquitanaAnyone who ever uses a spur on a horse, is giving away a lot about themselves as not only a horseman but also as a human. Even if they think they are using them ‘kindly’ or ‘gently’……whatever. A spur indicates that the person is focused more on pressure than release; more on make rather than ask; more on getting the task done than rewarding the try; on getting what they want rather than on how the horse feels. And they don’t understand that even if they get the horse to do their bidding, it won’t last because horses learn by release and not by pressure. If you can’t get it done with a horse without using a spur, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it…..or maybe the answer lies in the mirror.


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‘Accepted’ Cruelty – Why do we turn a blind eye?

HIMtwoWhat is more important? What you want or what your horse needs? When it comes to many horse sports, tragically it seems that the answer is not as it should be. There are very many – actually even one is too many – beautiful horses whose mind, body and soul have been sacrificed in the name of the sport they’re forced to participate in. And sadly it seems, the higher the level of competition, the worse it becomes.

There are some people who would say that these horses are treated like kings. They get the best care, feed, stabling, health checks and so on. This of course makes it okay to use any amount of abuse in pursuit of the sport. If the horse is physically fit, shiny and healthy, it doesn’t matter about his mental or emotional state. As long as he doesn’t bleed from the mouth or sides, all is okay.

How does causing untold and often constant pain, fit in with sharing a partnership and love with a horse? It just doesn’t add up if you stop to think about it for even one second. Did you know that there are horse sports where they’ve had to put rules, such as the blood rule, into place to try and stop some people being cruel to animals? How crazy is that? How would any horse lover, seriously, consider it okay to kick a horse hard enough with a spur to make it bleed? Or use such severe bits and leverage on a horse’s mouth, to cut it’s tongue…sometimes in half? It staggers me that this even needs to be considered. If you don’t love horses and care about how they feel, don’t have one. You don’t deserve one.

How did we get to this degree of violence and cruelty to horses? And why does it make us ‘crazy’ and ‘dangerous’, if we have the skill, ability, knowledge and understanding of horses to be able to ride – if we choose – with nothing on our horses heads? Or backs? Plenty of us do ride in saddles and bridles, but because we choose to, not because we need to.

I’m sorry but where did our love of our horse get replaced by our desire to achieve personal glory? Why is a blood ruling even needed in a sport where one of the participants is an animal? Why are the riders and judges blind or ignorant to the mental and emotional pain of the horse and must wait until they see actual blood drawn before the can say “enough…..this horse is being ill treated”.


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Just who are the crazy ones anyway?

Meri and Geoff_EquitanaI was recently admiring a student of mine as she and her horse rode a round of jumps in a field, total joy on the rider’s face and I’m certain a smile to equal it on the face of the horse. He looked so relaxed and happy and was thoroughly enjoying himself. They were in total unison, both calm and having fun and at the end, she just sat back and they stopped…the horse lowering his head to enjoy the grass. Beautiful. And what was even more special about it was that there was nothing on the horse’s head at all, just a simple string around his neck. And yet he would turn, transition, steady up or go faster with no more effort needed on the rider’s part than a suggestion.

There is nothing unusual about any of this, at least not among people I ride with, as any number of QS students can do the same or similar with their horses. Some with nothing on their horse’s heads – not even a string! – some in a rope hackamore, some with a halter and one rein. Even some in a bridle!

And yet, there are still now huge numbers of people who think that we are unsafe, dangerous and downright crazy. I’ve had people say it to my face and to many of my students – that we’re mad and shouldn’t be allowed to ride like this.

There has been a lot of comment recently about a pair or contrasting photos doing the rounds of the internet. One is of a lady jumping her horse with just a neck string and the other is of a poor horse submitted to so much gadgetry on it’s head, it is heart breaking to even look at. The fear and anxiety shows on this poor creature’s face, as it is to reduced to this treatment that is nothing short of torture. By contrast, is the other horse, happily cruising over it’s jump, with not a piece of metal or leather in sight. And yet the stressed and tortured horse is allowed to compete like this, at the highest level of show jumping no less, but the other is not. Because it’s deemed unsafe….it’s crazy to ride like that!  Where is the logic?  You’re allowed to compete on a terrified, nervous horse as long as you have enough stuff on it’s head to cause untold physical and mental pain, but you’re not allowed to compete on a horse that is relaxed, happy and listening to it’s rider…with whom it obviously has a terrific partnership.

If you stop to think about it, it’s just more evidence of our ignorance when you see this kind of example. If someone wants to ride their horse in a rope halter, or hackamore, or with just a string around their horse’s neck, chances are they feel pretty safe, secure and confident that they have full communication and control of their horse. Why on earth would they want to ride or compete in such a way if they didn’t feel safe? So, telling someone else they aren’t safe when they do this, just says how unsafe you and your horse would be if the tables were reversed. It reflects a lot more on the accuser than the accused. Don’t you think?

The argument is, that at that level of competition, the riders need more control. So what does that mean? That so called ‘high level’ horses are crazy, terrified, right brained and reactionary? That without the use of pain, torture and cruelty they can’t be controlled? That the only way they can jump these huge jumps is if they are thinking more of their self preservation than anything else? And does that also then mean that the ends justifies the means? That it is okay to contain and use any force necessary on a horse, if it is giving high-end results? If this really is the case, why would anyone want to compete in such a sport? If that is what it takes, don’t do the sport. Easy. Just because it can be done doesn’t make it right.

Why would anyone want to ride a horse that is so emotional, reactionary and scared for it’s life that it’s only thought is self preservation. This is why they run away…this is why they buck, shy, rear and stop listening. I wouldn’t ride that horse. Now that would be crazy!

Pain causes fear and fear causes reaction. In horse riding terms a human on a horse that is fearful or reactionary is any thing but safe or in control. How is it in any way logical that a rider on an emotional horse is safe? No matter what type of gadgetry they have on the horse. It’s just another example of the illogical behaviour of humans when it comes to conventional riding. But they knock and disregard the rider of a calm, relaxed, thinking horse because she or he hasn’t resorted to entrapment as par for the course in their ‘training’. Instead they have worked on building a partnership of trust, communication and mutual respect.

I don’t want to focus on the level of cruelty to horses in some sports because this isn’t my point (but it will be in a later post). What I do want to focus on is just where the craziness lies.

We have progressed so much in recent years, with many aspects of our lives and yet people as a whole are still unbelievably ignorant about horses. We accept that horses are dangerous, unpredictable and crazy and that its okay to use force and pain to get them to do what we want. And worse, that even with all this accepted, it’s okay to get on and rider them like this! Yet all the while, there is evidence right in front of our noses that horses need be no such thing. There are many QS students and the like achieving incredible things on relaxed, confident, thinking horses.

‘They’ call us crazy! Because we often ride with no saddle, or bridle, or helmet, or gadgets or anything at all. And yet we have horses who like being with us, are easy to catch, we can and do take them just about anywhere, our horses are calm, relaxed, they have fun, they look after us. They are easy to get going and easy to stop. We can trim their feet without tying them up, led them without a rope, play with them with no fences, or ropes, or halters! We don’t need to give them treats, or punish them. We rarely get even a scratch when dealing with them let alone break a bone…..or worse, and yet all of these things are the stuff that ‘normal’ horse ownership is made of.

So who then are the crazy ones? Time to change!


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Conversations that leave you……………?????

Amongst the many conversations I’ve had today, I’ve had two about people getting bucked off their horses.

One was about a friend of the person I was talking too, who was riding her horse, got turfed off and broke several bones in her spine and I think also her hip.  She was very, very lucky.  This is someone who has in the past done some horsemanship coaching but not for the last three years or so.  I guess she doesn’t need it anymore.

The other was a lady who was riding her young, green Arab mare who had been ‘broken to trot’.  Last time she rode the horse she got bucked off.  She was “lucky she wasn’t hurt because her husband is still recovering” from an injury involving his horse.  Anyhow…she thought she’d try it again!!!….and took the mare to a show and she didn’t get bucked off so all was good.

I’m not sure what staggers me most.  For one thing, getting bucked off is a serious issue.  It is not a random accident.  It takes a lot for a horse to buck a person off and it’s time we realised this.  Your horse has been trying to tell you something but you’re not listening.

For the other thing, and this is something I’ve never understood, what the heck is ‘broken to trot’?  A horse is either rideable or it isn’t.  If a horse hasn’t been ridden at canter it is not started….period.  If it can’t carry a rider when it’s back comes up such as in a canter stride (or going over a jump) then it probably will buck the next person who gets on it – off!

Phew!…..rather a long thought of the day.

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