I am so passionate about self carriage! For horses and riders, it’s the holy grail! On the way to self carriage, a horse works through stiffness and asymmetry in his body, he finds strength and balance. He learns to focus, to be calm. He takes interest in, and enjoyment from his work.
I consider self carriage to be physical, mental, and emotional. A horse in self carriage is not held together by the riders rein, leg, or seat. He carries his weight and his frame himself. He moves with impulsion, engagement, and balance. When you have self carriage, you also have a supple, light and responsive horse.
The mental and emotional aspects of self carriage indicate a horse who has tapped into the horse-rider partnership. He trusts his rider’s judgement, but knows that his voice will be heard. He is not afraid to make a mistake or explore. He’s monitoring his own actions, reactions, and his rider. He’s looking to do the right thing, listening intently to his rider. A horse in self carriage has voluntarily and willingly decided to participate, and has found intrinsic joy in his work. Mental and emotional self carriage cannot be forced or faked.
Horses who have achieved self carriage on the ground hold their own space, have mastered their reactive nature, and respect the space of the humans around them. They display a calm curiosity in and engagement with their surroundings.
I do not pull horses together, push them together, hold them up or rescue them from a mistake. There are no shortcuts to the holy grail of self carriage and to seek it requires trust in the process and the willingness and humility to wait out the awkward, head in the air, out of balance phase. This is a slower path, but deeply rewarding.