There’s an old NBC sitcom where one of the characters hates getting his picture taken. He and his fiancée are trying to take engagement photos, and every time someone even pulls a camera out in his vicinity, he freezes up and makes very strange faces. He sabotages every attempt at getting a decent photo because no matter what, he just can’t act naturally in front of a camera.
Often, I feel the same way when I’m being filmed horseback. With the internet being the main place to sell horses and ponies, this is a tough thing to avoid. It’s all but mandatory to have at least one video of the available horse, so that people can view, share and consider him or her. Also, If your riding program revolves around taking outside horses and riding them for customers, they’ll eventually want you to show them what that horse is and what it can and can’t do.
Even if I don’t feel nervous or anxious about the process, something internal seems to translate to my horse. It seems every time a camera comes out, or we need to make sale videos, or someone shows up to see their colt, that’s always the day they don’t really feel that good.
“Wait, did he just take an off step?” I think to myself.
A seasoned, broke and quiet horse might randomly crunch the bit and dance a bit when opening a gate. Or I feel him lean in with his shoulders on a turn and internally grimace. A horse that usually stops smoothly and clean might bounce a little. Of course, because we are “showing off,” I don’t correct something in the same way I would when not being filmed or observed. Then the feeling perpetuates. Watch it back, delete. Delete, delete, repeat.
In 2009, an extensive study was done at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences which proved an increase in a person’s heart rate does indeed affect the heart rate of the horse they are riding or leading. When we consider what a horse in a herd situation needs to be in tune with for survival, it makes sense that they are sensitive to the reactions and heart rates of those around them. I find this fascinating, and it helps me understand just how much our actions affect how our horses may perform.
How do we get past this? I’m not one to give advice, nor do I have near the expertise to do so; however, in my experience, the answer is simple: I need to do more of it!
I’ve got to put myself and my horses in more situations where there’s a bit of pressure to perform well. The more often we get into situations that create discomfort, the more opportunities we have to improve.
There are so many benefits to filming ourselves as riders. We get to see how we look in the saddle, where there’s room for improvement toward our goals, why certain things happen and also have a chance to record and recognize progress we create over time.
I’m sure that horsemen and trainers who compete, travel and teach are much better at ignoring a camera and just do their job well. These horse and rider pairs are much more seasoned to the process, and their nerves and are unaffected by watchful eyes.
Whether you want to perform better, assess your progress or even show a horse off to an owner or potential buyer, video is a great option to utilize. We film our horses to paint an honest picture of what they are, so we need to cut ourselves a little slack, too, when it doesn’t feel perfect.
Remember, there’s always that delete button when you need it.