( Originally Published 1962 )
TO BECOME A GOOD HORSEMAN IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO MASTER the technique of equitation, even when the stage is reached when feel is beginning to guide the application of the aids. It is just as important that the rider develop a clear understanding of the horse's mental processes, in general and individually. Every horse has his peculiarities, and if the rider is unable to recognize them he will soon find himself at odds with his mount as far as smooth cooperation is concerned. The study of "horse psychology" is not only necessary but is one of the things that makes riding the most fascinating of all sports.
It is easy to see why this part of the science of equitation is of enormous value to children. It is simple enough to teach a youngster the technical elements of horsemanship. He will almost instinctively do the natural and correct thing because his sense of feel has not yet been dulled or his co-ordination lost. Riding, more than anything else, will help children to overcome shyness and timidity. It will teach them to depend on themselves and give them confidence. But it will also make them aware of the fact that the horse has senses like their own, but a good deal more acutely developed. They will find out that the horse possesses a number of excellent qualities of mind that they themselves might be proud of. He is courageous, kind, patient, and proud. He is loyal and affectionate to those who treat him well. He is honest, faithful, and eager to serve a sympathetic master. He appreciates and will never forget a kindness, even if it is only a pat on the neck, although he is also slow to forget a hurt or an injustice.
When the young pupil's attention is called to these qualities and has them demonstrated to him every time he is around a horse he will soon develop a genuine affection for dumb animals in general and for his horse in particular that is based on intelligent understanding and is much more important than the ability to post.
Conducted along the proper lines, the child's experiences in the school ring, on the bridle path, and around the stable will by no means make him hard and tough. The result will be quite the opposite. It is a regrettable fact that parents are justified in hesitating to send their children to a riding academy. Although they want them to learn equitation, they distrust the atmosphere and influence of these institutions. It must, however, be remembered that the type of livery stable where brutality to horses and lack of manners to the customers was the rule is becoming less common, due to the pressure of public opinion. There is no scarcity of academies where the air is just as clean as in any Sunday school.
Learning to ride during childhood means a hundred times as much as learning later in life. And it is easier.