Horsemanship With Lindsey Partridge: Why Do You Do That?

Why do you do that? In this month’s article, Lindsey Partridge discusses exploring why we do the things we do with our horses and how those choices impact our horses.

Photo by Michael Brown

Why do you do that?

It’s a valid question — one that I was first asked when I was working a horse in the round pen. The horse was going around in circles following the rail of the pen, I was standing in the middle as Dally went around — a little bay Arabian gelding that was one of my favourites at the farm.

My mentor, Gary Covery, came over to the pen and asked me, “Why do you that?” And you know what? I didn’t really know.

Back when I was 16 years old I worked for a trail riding facility called Pleasure Valley. It was a dream come true to work there. We had some of the best and most amazing horses — smooth, reliable and absolute saints with beginners. We also had the most beautiful trails — I remember guiding trail rides and thinking, “I am so lucky to work here.” We also had Gary.

Gary was the first person to make me really question what I was doing, why I was doing it, what were the other options and how is this impacting the horse? He has since passed on, but the lessons he taught me have stuck with me.

There are many things that I was just doing with horses, and didn’t really know why:

  • I did everything from the left — leading, mounting, saddling, dismounting, even when I was just standing with my horse.
  • Kept my horse in a stall with about seven hours of turnout each day
  • Left a halter on my horse
  • Chased my horse around to get rid of excess energy
  • Used a harsher bit if my horse wasn’t stopping
  • Tacked up with a saddle and saddle pad

Now I know so much more after asking why? What are the other options? How does this impact the horse?

  • I now do everything from both sides — leading, mounting, saddling, and dismounting because I don’t have a sword or gun to worry about, and my horse gets the benefit of being worked from both sides.
  • I now keep my horses outside 24/7 except for special circumstances (injuries, weather, shows, training) because horses only sleep about four hours a day. The rest of the time it’s good for them to socialize and move, both physically and mentally.
  • I don’t keep halters on my horses in the field except for breakaway halters in special circumstances because horses can die from getting their halter caught on something, and my horses are easy to catch.
  • I allow my horses to free run to get rid of energy, but I don’t chase them — because horses can’t always run outside (weather, footing, etc.) and it can help them to focus better, but chasing can damage the partnership.
  • Now start all my horses in the Fusion halter — I don’t rely on a bit for control or to stop my horse because I understand that technique and relaxation are more important.
  • Now I understand that not all saddles and equipment are created equal. It is important that saddles are checked for fit, and that a saddle pad with impact protection is important to help the horse’s back.

There are so many things I have learnt over the decades of horse training — there are so many things that I have changed once I understood the options better.

Recently I have been trying treeless saddles again — high quality treeless with weight distribution and no rigid parts. I have been super impressed with the saddles I’ve tried. I decided to try them because Shiney is ridiculously hard to fit, and Elysia has an ever changing back as my training schedules fluctuate.

As you move through your journey with your horse, make sure you’re considering what and why you’re doing what you’re doing so that you can make progress.

5 Steps to Progressing your Partnership with Horses

  1. Willingness to ask “why?”
  2. Discover your options
  3. Assess how each option impacts you and your horse
  4. Make the decision that is best for you and your horse knowing why
  5. Adapt in the future if you need to make a change

About Lindsey Partridge:
Lindsey has won multiple championships and placed in the top five at the Thoroughbred Makeover and Mustang Training Challenges. She is the Founder of Harmony Horsemanship.