Old sayings, axioms, quotations and adages have the power to encapsulate whole ideas in just a few well-chosen words. In this way, they can focus our thinking and crystallize our evaluations of various subjects and situations.
Many sayings that are part of the general American culture can also include the world of horses. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” can refer to a horse or to a valued client. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” can refer to a pregnant mare or to expectations about an upcoming show.
Other sayings are quite exclusively oriented toward horses. I can’t think of a broader application for the familiar dressage adage, “Ride from your inside leg to your outside rein.”
Some sayings are instructive, some enlightening, some humorous, and others admonishing. Nearly 50 years after the scolding, I can still vividly hear the words of Francis Kinsman when I let Paint’s water tub get filthy: “Denny, if you can’t take care of that pony, you don’t deserve to have him.”
Each of us has axioms, phrases, sayings and adages that resonate through our conscious and unconscious minds, and they affect our attitudes and how we do things.
So, here are some others, which may or may not be exactly as I heard or read them. As in the game “Telephone,” phrases can change as they pass from person to person. If I think I know the source, I’ll give it, although the original source of the phrase may be lost in the mists of time. If I’ve misquoted someone, I apologize.
It’s also important to remember that just because a saying has been repeated so many times that it’s become an adage, that still doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily so.
“Heads Up, Heels Down”: Core riding basics summed up in this four-word book title by C.W.Anderson.
“Ride the horse you’re on”: Jim Wofford.
“The time to sell your horse is when somebody wants to buy him”: anonymous.
If someone offers a lot of money for your horse and you refuse the offer, someone may say, “That’s when two fools meet-he one for offering it and the other for not taking it”: anonymous.
“Don’t call him a cowboy ’til you see him ride”: a line from a country song.
“A rigid elbow equates with a rigid eye”: George Morris.
“The two most influential trainers a horse will ever have are his sire and his dam”: anonymous.
“The old riders make the young horses; the old horses make the young riders.” anonymous.
“Green and green don’t make blue”: Frank Chapot.
“The only people who never fall off are those who never get on”: anonymous.
“The link between impulsion and balance is the correct use of the half-halts”: anonymous.
“The correctness of the training depends upon the skill with which the rider weaves the half-halts into the fabric of the work”: Reiner Klimke.
“A good rider on a great horse can usually beat a great rider on a good horse”: anonymous.
“There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode, there never was a cowboy that couldn’t be throwed”: anonymous.
“As I approach a cross-country fence, I like to feel that 75 percent of the horse is up in front of me”: Lucinda Green.
“Joints are to move”: Sally Swift.
“Don’t tell me how well you ride. Get on and show me”: Jack Le Goff, expressed in one way or another to all of his riders over the last 30 years.
“What’s the matter? Did you eat a telephone pole for breakfast?”: Jack Le Goff, if he feels you may lack a certain supple quality in your seat and posture.
“There is nothing wrong with that horse except the abscess on his back”: Jack Le Goff about you, usually stated loudly and in front of the largest possible audience.
“Light on top of the pedigree, heavy on the bottom”: A breeding axiom that suggests that when a Thoroughbred or Arabian is crossed with a draft or warmblood breed, the dam should be the heavier part of the equation.
“Ladies and gentleman, I would like to suggest that dressage riding is not the last refuge of the non-athlete.” Maj. Dezso Szilagyi.
“Don’t go forward with your upper body in the air over the fence more than you need to, not to get left”: Kathy Kusner, to me, at a clinic 25 years ago. I’m still trying to get it right.
“Nein, Denny, Das ist nicht gut genug!” (No, Denny that’s not good enough!): Walter Chris-tensen, repeatedly, over many years of clinics and lessons.
“An easy horse is a horse which a much better rider than you has just gotten off, before the horse realizes that you have gotten on”: Walter Christensen (translated from German).
And, after all the sayings, the adages, and aphorisms, when all other words have failed, these four famous final words: “Shut up and ride!”