In The Trenches

In the Trenches      

ISES Newsletter Submission

March 19, 2015

by Virginia “Ginny”  Chase Elder


The past few years I have been involved in producing a series of riding clinics and lectures with a friend of mine that bring equitation science to everyday horse management training and riding goals. I call myself an in the trench riding instructor and every riding lesson I give is an opportunity to discuss the nature of horses and the philosophy of compassion through knowledge and apply learning theory to everyday engagement with the horse. The students and their horses have been my guinea pigs to test on how to transition traditional horsemanship with equitation science and critical horsemanship thinking skills.m Learning theory can be taught in a friendly manner that invites curiosity.  More often than not it involves reeducating the human to “think” as the horses are waiting to engage in some sense and sensibility from us.

As we worked to create new skills in the riders the horses are pretty clear in letting us know if we we’re getting it right.  Horses have talent in their release and positive reinforcement to the humans!  It just goes to show what aware creatures they are. Positive reinforcement is great tool to add to our student’s equestrian tool boxes.

It is a humbling and yet exhilarating experience to teach and to keep learning.  It is thrilling to see a student have a breakthrough that is clearly acknowledged and responded to by the horse. Equitation science can be taught and presented in a way that is fun for both horse and rider.  I can’t help but reflect on the abuse, cruelty and consternation that could be alleviated by continuing education and by adding science to our training and management of horses and it’s important to bring “in the trenches” instructors on board to beat the drum of Equitation Science.


What I have observed in these clinics and lessons is that the riders are delighted and many times amazed with the progress and success they achieve when the subjective approach is replaced with an objective one.  

It is important as instructors to teach independent critical thinking skills and encourage our students and clients to carefully examine ideas and information that are presented to them along their journey as horsemen.  We should never fear learning something new and outside our comfort zone.  With equitation science hopefully the future for many horses will be improved and we can step out of the quicksand of tradition into compassion.


I hope that you will always be a thinking horseman… is the kindest thing you can do for your horse.


Respectfully submitted by

“Ginny”  Chase Elder