Features & Stories

Story by Trudy Frisk
Photos courtesy of Patricia Porter

First we need mutual interest.
Patricia Porter has been working with horses professionally for thirty-five years.  In her opinion the trouble some owners have with their horses is due to a simple misunderstanding.  “The problem is, most people are doing a tango, but the horses are doing a waltz!”   Her training sessions at her stable in Monte Lake, B.C., focus on getting horses and riders moving to the same beat.

“When most people get into horses, “Patricia observes, “it’s because of love and passion for the animals.  Where does that go?”  As she sees it, a large part of the difficulty comes from people not understanding a horse’s instinctive behaviour.  “Horses are monuments to nature; they are nature.  We’re so mechanical; so far removed from nature. Horses react on a prey/predator basis, they’re aware of body language; they want consistency but they also want to know the rules. Riders need to understand equine attitudes and actions and teach them what’s ok. When they nip wrong behaviour in the bud, they have to be consistent. Then horses know where the lines are, just like kids.  They know what’s acceptable. “   

There’s more to it, of course.  As Patricia says, “We’re so good at making simple things difficult.  Most people say ‘I love my horse.’ Well, what does the horse say about that? People are missing the relationships.  They’ll work their horses mentally and work them into the ground physically.  If you’re willing to take on a horse, invest time and money, why on earth wouldn’t you want a relationship?” 

Group grooming.
“Human relationships are based on love and respect, not fear.  People dismiss that sort of relationship with a horse because they think it’s weak. People look at the journey with horses as being physical and we interpret that as being hard. The more focused people are on an event, the more equipment and pressure they put on a horse, the farther it takes them from their horse. It’s like going for a walk, grabbing strangers, trying to force them to do stuff, then labeling and restraining them when they resist. “

“When they don’t win the battle, they label the horse and then they get another one.  It’s like horses are disposable. The smart horses which fight back are either taken for training or put down.”

“People blame equipment, horses, vets, or trainers for what isn’t working for them.
Most of the time the horses don’t have clear direction; they’re working on their own interpretation.  It’s as though horse and rider have two totally different agendas.”

Intro to Foundatoin clinics - small group = huge progress.
Love and leadership can change this. A well rounded approach, addressing emotional, intellectual and physical demands, forms the basis for a solid, mutually respectful partnership with a horse. “People need to ask, “How can I cause this animal to be more comfortable? The horse should be thinking, ‘I’m not afraid.  I feel safe.  What’s next’?”
Not everyone is open to that.  “Rather than falling in love with horses and how easy it can be, people seem proud of the struggle. The most driven people are the most closed off from the one thing that will get them out of the box.”

“How many horses leave their herd and come running to their owner asking eagerly ‘What are we going to do?’ Imagine the performance if your horse wants to be with you.”

When riders who’ve had trouble bring their horses to Patricia for help it is, she says,
“Because they have so much love and commitment to their horses, they’re willing to change. I try to teach them how, if their heart is in it, they can be connected and grounded. No matter what the performance means to a person, without heart, you’ve got nothing. “ 

Patricia still loves dresage, in all weather.
Patricia says she specializes in training people. “Horses take no time at all.  It’s the people…”  Once they change, so will their horses. “Horses are the most forgiving animals on earth. Once good basics; love, trust, and understanding, are established the rider can add more details.  You’ll always have that good friendship to go back to. “

Also, she notes; “You get what you train for. When teaching on the ground, the animal should go in all directions equally well. Often people will do things on the ground, and then they get on the horse and do things totally different. No wonder the horse is confused. “

“The key is that everything they ask of the horse must be quality, incorporating lightness and a positive attitude.  If it’s not quality, it’s not solid and it takes a lot of energy.  A negative approach takes much more energy than a positive one.  Training with love takes way less time. “       

Patricia with her Thoroughbred stallion, always had lots to say.
Patricia, herself, has competed successfully in a variety of equestrian events; jumping, endurance racing, and Grand Prix dressage.  She’s familiar with every aspect of a race track.  For fourteen years Patricia trained traditionally.  Then “A particular horse came into my life that caused me to ask ‘Is this all there is?’”

She searched for a gentler technique, and developed the natural style she now uses and teaches.    

She emphasizes that following her methods will improve performance. Dressage riders will have more roundness, precision and relaxation; cutting horses will achieve cleaner cuts with more tenacity.  Whether it’s running a faster barrel or pointing to a trailer and having the horse run in asking, ‘Oh, where are we going today?’ learning how to move in a trusting partnership with the horse will simplify the relationship. Even a daily trail ride will be much more pleasant with fewer lower back, knee and hip problems.  “It’s about allowing yourself to go with what’s happening; not doing more than you have to, so you’re not getting pushed or jarred.”  As one of her students exclaimed when her horse responded eagerly to her requests, “Things don’t have to be that hard!”

“Loving won’t make the horse soft and non-competitive.  A horse working out of love and desire will always out-compete a horse working out of fear and intimidation.  Performance is only one part; it’s what it took to get it done.”

“Working with horses rather than against them is as old as dirt!” Patricia emphasizes.  “It starts with people loving their horses in a natural partnership, which still gives people freedom, mobility and range.  Life could be so much different. An owner could have a well finished horse with a smile on its face ready .

Sometimes you get to start in the beginning.
Welcome small talk

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