At one of the recent shows, I watched as a woman spurred her horse faster and faster into the arena. I thought to myself “ouch!” every time the spurs made contact with the horse’s sides. I also thought that the horse wasn’t moving any faster and could it be possible the horse was actually going slower in response to the spur.
Today I came across an article by Jean Luc Cornille, who has experience in horse physiology as well as being a gymnast. His article, “Why do you use spurs on your horse?” explains that it’s an old concept to think spurs or leg kicks propel a horse forward. In fact, the article explains that “The rider’s leg touches sensors, which are designed to feel touch. These sensors have the capacity to feel a fly.” Think about that for a second. It’s the evolution of the horse. To be sensitive enough to feel a parasite landing on your side. And here we humans are kicking and spurring the same sensitive sides. The story explains that humans just don’t have that kind of sensitivity in their body to understand that concept. In fact, I once read that if a person isn’t holding an object with their hands, they cannot tell what that object is by just the feel of it on their skin. Our bodies are just not designed the way a horse is in order to survive.
“…human instability in the saddle results in inadvertent delivery of irrelevant tactile signals to the horse”… – Read that again.
and a consequent failure in teaching the horse which signals are meaningful. Horses deemed insensitive to the legs (dead- sided), may simply have never had the chance to respond to consistent, light and meaningful signals.“
It can be very difficult to retrain your brain. But with new scientific information regarding our equine friends, maybe it’s time we start talking their language instead of forcing them to listen ours.