Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Ubuntu Horsemanship. Open Horse

I started describing the disgusting way the British Equestrian Establishment buried the African American invention of the "Forward Seat". This became Ex Africa semper aliquid novi, the theory of an African origin for Natural Horsemanship discovered when I pulled back the racist curtain obscuring Dorian Williams's view of horsemanship.
Combined with a brief digression on Ubuntu, the name of a software system and an African philosophy, I have the weird feeling I have a workable and near universal style of horsemanship that will work in the 21st Century.

Two paragraphs written by Dorian Willams in 1964, are critical to this philosophy.

"The reaction of the horse to the tempo and personality of the rider was very vividly demonstrated to me some years ago in Johannesburg. I was going to the races one day, and as I drove through the city I saw to my amazement some of the horses that were going to run in the races being ridden through the streets- through all the busy, noisy traffic- by their grooms, who were native boys. The horses were thoroughbreds, bred on exactly the same lines as our own racehorses, and yet whereas our horses would have been all over the place, demanding the most skilled handling, these were just jogging disinterestedly along on a loose rein! Now those African boys are very lazy and lethargic by temperament. It would never occur to them to hurry or to get excited, and they just drift along, their complete lack of understanding communicating itself to their horses."

"I once had a horse that had in fact been a confirmed runaway and was so highly strung that even out exercising it would become so excited that I could hardly manage it. Fortunately I had a girl working for me who, though she had never been taught properly to ride, and had no experience at all before coming to me, yet was blessed with a wonderfully calm and sympathetic temperament. As a result she could ride the horse without any difficulty at all. With her, that horse never became excited, even when hunting fit and getting more than 16 lbs of oats each day. Thanks to her nature and temperament she was able to catch with little difficulty horses and ponies that were a real problem to the others."

Dorian Willams, the author of these paragraphs, was an experienced horseman from a "horsey" family. He was a British Horse Society Hall of Fame, Laureate, and the BBC's first and greatest Equestrian TV commentator. A good eye and an understanding of horsemanship were the minimum qualifications for his job, yet he dismisses the skills of these Africans in the crudest racist terms. He accepts without explanation, that a girl, who he admits he hadn't trained properly, and who had no "horsey" background, was better than him. Not that he tells us who she is, she's only a servant. Yet with 20/20 hindsight from the 21st Century what do we see.

African stable lads*, effortlessly outclassing anything Newmarket could produce in terms of horsemanship. An untrained and inexperienced girl who could out perform the best in Dorian Williams own yard. Today we would say, "Natural Horsemanship", but that leaves the question of where it came from. What factors do the African horsemen, and that brilliant girl at the Williams yard, share? They haven't been properly taught.

It is difficult to make a training program out of that, but you watch, I will do it. Just to complicate issues and add to the fun I will throw in the concept of Open Horse into the bargain.
Open Horse is the horseman's version of the Computer enthusiast's Open Source. Ideas are open for all to see and for all to build upon. You can add what you like to it, but anything you build on an Open Horse platform, becomes Open Horse in its own right, and anyone can use it.

I know where I am going, so I am sticking this on Blogger as a starting point. Add comments if you want. The concept is there. It just hammered me between the eyes as I walked down the road. Listening to the Pogues and The Old Main Drag, everything is coming together in my brain but here, if you are interested, is the heart of the system.

The Africans and the Girl learned from their horses, not people. They were servants, they didn't have power, or authority, or class, or status. So they used what they had, their brains, their eyes, their ears, and their sympathy with others at the bottom of the food chain. Ubuntu carries some of these ideas, a feeling of fitting into a society, and being respected for who you are, where you are. They let themselves fit in with the horses. In Africa, and in Williams's yard, horses would have been considered more important than the African lads* or an English working girl.

It is a prey thing, us together against the world. Rulers don't get it. They use it, they don't live it.

I've seen it work and I've missed it, I've missed it endlessly but I am beginning to see it wherever I look.

This is a work in progress and steals half the concepts that are inherent in the next piece, so you will just have to live with the repetition. Tough. The following pieces stand on their own feet, but were written before I wrote this, so they may change with time. But change defines time.

* My use of the word "lads" has specific English connotations and describes any menial employee of a racing stable of any age or sex. When Dorian Williams uses the word "boy" I presume he is intending the colonial meaning, a male servant of any age.

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